Friday, July 06, 2007

WE'RE HEADED NORTH to stay in a cabin that I'm told will not have Internet access. I'll try to get into town and find a coffee place or something that does, but this is likely to be sporadic. Otherwise, we expect to be back here a week from tomorrow. Have a good week.
Masada complex

A new museum at Masada presents a selection of the archaeological discoveries that were found at the site, including a pay stub of a Roman soldier and 2,000 year old date and olive pits. However, today’s Masada belongs to the people of Israel, some of whom take home souvenirs, and some of whom choose to get married there

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Pack your trunks and march to Hannibal's

Scott Joseph | [Orlando] Sentinel Restaurant Critic
June 29, 2007

Winter Park has a stylish new lounge for cool drinks and light nibbles. But if you're on Park Avenue, you're going to have to cross the railroad tracks to get to it.

Hannibal's on the Square is, it shouldn't be a surprise to learn, on Hannibal Square. What might be a surprise to learn is that Hannibal Square is more of a street than a square. I had always assumed it was the name of the park that sits catty-corner to Dexter's, but that's called Shady Park. It has been my observation that if you're opening a business, you don't want the word shady in your name.

And as long as we're digressing here, let's go a little further afield. Did you know that Hannibal Square is named for that famed Carthaginian military commander known for crossing the Pyrenees and Alps on elephants to start the Second Punic War? The Second Punic War was also known by the Romans as the War Against Hannibal, which shows you what kind of grudge the Romans could hold. This all happened around 218 B.C., so my memory is a little fuzzy. As far as I know, Hannibal never visited the Winter Park location that is named for him. Neither did his elephants.

The food sounds okay too.
ARAMAIC WATCH: A new book coming soon from Brill, via Jack Sasson's Agade list:
Les manuscripts araméens du Wadi Daliyeh et la Samarie vers 450-332 av. J.-C.
Jan Dušek

Expected: August 2007

ISBN-13 (i)The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) has been changed from 10 to 13 digits on 1 January 2007: 978 90 04 16178 8

Cover: Hardback
Number of pages: xvi, 682 pp. (French)

List price: € 190.00 / US$ 257.00

All those interesed in the Old Testament, the history of Palestine and the ancient Near East, Hebrew and Aramaic philology and epigraphy, theology, papyrology, and history of law.

About the author(s)
Jan Dušek, Ph.D. (2005) in History and Archaeology of Ancient Worlds, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris/France, works as a researcher in the Centre for Biblical Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and the Charles University in Prague.

This book deals with the manuscripts from the Wadi Daliyeh (Samaria Papyri) written in Aramaic in the 4th century BCE in the city of Samaria, in the last decades of the Persian Period. The book contains a complete edition of the Wadi Daliyeh manuscripts, their new historical interpretation and an analysis of their legal aspects. The historical interpretation shed new light on the history of Samaria and its institutions in the Persian period, as well as on the history of the Persian province of Judaea. The book is particulary useful for historians of Palestine in the Second Temple Period, for biblical scholars as well as for scholars dealing with Near Eastern legal texts.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

UNSETTLING THOUGHTS about the San Diego Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition:
To beef up security before the scrolls' arrival, the museum was awarded roughly $80,000 by the Department of Homeland Security's Urban Area Security Initiative for nonprofit institutions considered to be at "high risk" for a terrorist attack. Of the seven San Diego nonprofits awarded a grant in 2006, six were Jewish organizations, the seventh being the museum, which spent the money on security cameras and door locks.

Dave Dalton, head of security for the museum, said that although it's been busy ("busier than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs," as he put it), there've been no threats.

"I keep my ear to the drums pretty closely," Dalton said. "I check with organizations on a regular basis to see if there's been any intelligence that would suggest there's any known threats or risk, and [there are] none that I'm aware of."
But the story about the mouse is amusing.
Cox Communications to Launch Middle Eastern Broadcasting Network of America
Network Joins Cox's Free International Programming Tier

By PR Newswire

HERNDON, Va., July 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Cox Communications Northern Virginia has announced the launch of the Middle Eastern Broadcasting Network of America (MBN TV), which will be offered to Cox Digital Cable customers throughout Fairfax County and the Fredericksburg region starting August 1, 2007. The new channel joins Cox's free International Tier of programming, which currently features 14 channels.

"We're pleased to offer yet another international programming choice to our diverse customer base," said Janet Barnard, vice president and region manager for Cox Northern Virginia. "MBN TV features a variety of compelling content, and is the perfect complement to our existing international lineup."

MBN TV is a 24-hour Middle Eastern network broadcasting from the United States, with coverage reaching the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The network has developed a unique programming structure in Arabic, Aramaic and English languages with widespread appeal. MBN TV airs a variety of content including: movies, soap operas, documentaries, music concerts, music videos, talk shows, sporting events, educational series, international and local news, and children's shows.

My emphasis.
THE "QUEEN OF SHEBA" TEMPLE in Yemen has been suicide bombed:
Bomb at Yemen temple kills 9
Reuters, The Associated Press
Published: July 2, 2007

SANA, Yemen: A suicide bomber killed nine people including six Spanish tourists Monday when he drove his car into the site of an ancient temple, police officials said.

In addition to the Spanish tourists, three Yemenis, including the suicide bomber, died, said the police officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Witnesses said a car drove through a gate and then exploded at the Queen of Sheba temple in northeastern Yemen, which was built about 3,000 years ago.

Barbaric. The speculation is that Al Qaeda is responsible.

(Via Francis Deblauwe on the Iraq Crisis list.)
Israel scraps Mughrabi bridge plan
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS (Jerusalem Post)

In a dramatic about-face, controversial plans to construct a major new bridge to the Mughrabi Gate adjacent to Jerusalem's Western Wall directly through an archeological garden abutting the Temple Mount have been nixed amid concern about possible damage to artifacts, officials said Monday.

The decision to abort the massive bridge, the construction of which had been deeply contested by leading Israeli archeologists, effectively means that a salvage excavation under way in the area, which has drawn the wrath of Islamic officials and led to low-level Arab violence in the region earlier this year, will be coming to a close shortly, the officials said.

The planned major bridge was meant to replace a temporary bridge that was constructed on the section of the Western Wall allocated for women's prayer. The temporary bridge was built more than a year ago, after the original stone ramp leading up to the Mughrabi Gate was removed, having been deemed unsafe by city engineers.


A UNESCO report on the dig concluded that the excavation is not damaging the holy site but called on Israel to stop the dig nonetheless to allow for international observation of the work.

Restore and protect the Mount of Olives
(Jerusalem Post)

Without any fanfare, the Knesset last week passed in preliminary reading one of its most overdue bills ever - for the establishment of a single national authority charged with the preservation, restoration and protection of the Mount of Olives cemetery - the Jewish people's most ancient burial ground and final resting place to a veritable pantheon of religious, spiritual, cultural and national paragons, including the Biblical prophets Zechariah, Haggai and Malachi.


The Authority to be set up according to the new Knesset legislation is to manage the cemetery as "a national shrine for the Jewish people, resurrect it from ruin and protect it from desecration and defacement." We can only hope that real action does indeed finally follows all the words and lamentations.

YEMENI ANTIQUITIES ALTERED TO LOOK JEWISH? So says the Yemen Observer about a cache of antiquities seized from an accused antiquities trafficker:
Smuggled antiquities court session delayed

The trial of Samir Hamad Jad Allah, a Jordanian man accused of trafficking and smuggling Yemeni antiquities, was postponed yesterday by the Secretariat Appeals Court. It was rescheduled for July 3 of this year. “The accused did not respond to the new report made by the Antiquities Department in Sana’a University,” said Judge Hamood al-Herbi. That report, made by experts at Sana’a University, examined a kilogram of old Yemeni gold and a number of stone and bronze pieces seized with the accused.

The report showed that these parts were extracted from a Yemeni cemetery or temple during an archaeological excavation, and that these pieces were tampered with. These pieces may date back to between prehistoric times and the Islamic century. This is indicated by the Mosnad line, which is a Yemeni pen marking used on a large number of those pieces. In addition to the monetary significance of the archaeological pieces, the committee said in the examination report that the archaeological group seized in the case is of an important and great history. The tampering with these objects has caused the loss of much important information from the location of the original graves, said the report.

The added decorations are related to the Jewish religion, such as the Temple of Solomon and the Hebrew lines. “Such action leads to distortion of the Yemeni heritages and flinging graphics elements which has nothing to do with the Yemeni civilization,” said Hisham al-Thawr, the antiquities specialist. Experts also had to examine the antiquities seized with the accused, at his request. Jad Allah refused to accept a previous report prepared by the General Authority for Antiquities, because he didn’t feel it was created by experts in the field. He demanded that the court form of a neutral committee specialized in the examination of the antiquities pieces.

I don't recall hearing of this case before, although Jack Sasson's Agade list noted this general article on antiquities smuggling in Yemen last April. Does anyone out there have more information?
PAULA FREDRICKSEN speaks for Paganism and answers the question would she vote for a Pagan for public office. Excerpt:
My point, on the other hand, is different, though I have given you the data for it in the two preceding paragraphs. In antiquity – and all through the Middle Ages, when different pantheons from further North flourished – there never was such a thing as paganism. The essence of traditional polytheism is its multiplicity. To think of paganism as an “-ism,” as “church” with its own sets of creeds and standardized rituals and “chaplains,” is to betray a venerable ancient religious culture by remaking it in the image and likeness of the Church. Since my ancient pagans cannot speak for themselves, I must speak for them: Whatever the pagan equivalent of goyishe would be, that’s what they would call this initiative.
I quite agree with her answer to the question.
I"M HERE! In Evansville, that is. Uneventful trip apart from circling the Madison airport for awhile in the middle of a lightning storm last night. Happy Fourth of July!

Monday, July 02, 2007

I'M OFF TO WISCONSIN for a three-week family holiday. We fly out of Edinburgh airport tomorrow in the early afternoon, but we're setting out for the airport from St. Andrews pretty early in the morning for obvious reasons. I expect to be fully networked most of the time once we arrive in the States, so blogging should continue more or less as usual.
DAVID HALPERIN has just published a book on Shabbetai Zvi:
Sabbatai Zevi
Testimonies to a Fallen Messiah

David J. Halperin

Sabbatai Zevi stirred up the Jewish world in the mid-seventeenth century by claiming to be the messiah, then stunned it by suddenly converting to Islam. The story is presented here for the first time through contemporary documents, written by Sabbatai’s followers and by one of his detractors, in translations that brilliantly capture the vividness of this landmark episode in early modern Jewish history.


David J. Halperin is Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He trained in Semitic languages at Cornell University, in Near Eastern Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, and in rabbinics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He received his Ph.D. from Berkeley in 1977. From 1976 through 2000 he taught the history of Judaism in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he was repeatedly recognized for excellence in undergraduate teaching. He is the author of The Merkabah in Rabbinic Literature (1980), The Faces of the Chariot: Early Jewish Responses to Ezekiel’s Vision (1988), Seeking Ezekiel: Text and Psychology (1993), and Abraham Miguel Cardozo: Selected Writings (2001).
(Via Jack Sasson's Agade list.)

I've known since the mid-90s that Halperin was working on this book and I've very glad to see it's out. There has been surprisingly little work done on Shabbetai since Scholem's massive monograph.

For more on Shabbetai Zvi, go here and follow the links. This post also discusses one of Halperin's earlier monographs in relation to Shabbetai.
RUMOR HAS IT that the Pope has approved the opening of the Apostle Paul's alleged tomb. But as far as I know, there's been no official announcement.

(Via Explorator 10.10.)
GOSPEL OF JUDAS WATCH: The discovery, transmission, sale, publication, and continued recent study of the Gospel of Judas are covered in this interesting article by Peter Nathan in Vision Insights and New Horizons:
Judas: It's Still About Money

Cashing in on the craze for Gnostic gospels

The re-release this year of several books in paperback reflects continuing popular interest in obscure nonbiblical works regarding the life of Jesus and the early church.

Last year it was the newly translated so-called Gospel of Judas, the latest pseudo-Christian text to grab attention. It’s release was conveniently timed to generate sales during the Easter season. A companion book, The Lost Gospel: The Quest for the Gospel of Judas Iscariot, told the story of the purchase and translation of the ancient Gnostic work. Both titles were published by the National Geographic Society and launched together with a prime-time documentary.

It was a great multimedia success, with top-echelon book sales. But while National Geographic’s Terry Garcia has pointed out that the society spent a significant sum on the manuscript’s restoration and that the project was “not a commercial enterprise,” the sentiment would carry more weight if claims made about the text were not so hyperbolic. For example, it is highly questionable that this is “the most significant archaeological discovery in 60 years,” as National Geographic News subjectively reported, or that “this lost gospel . . . bears witness to something completely different from what was said [about Judas] in the Bible.”

As I noted, the scope of the piece is considerably wider than one would expect from the title.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL XIX has been published by Stephen L. Cook at Biblische Ausbildung.
SPORTS NEWS: Here's an interesting item from sports columnist Bob Hunter in the Columbus Dispatch:
Sports Illustrated featured former Bengals quarterback David Klingler in a recent "Where are they now?" feature.

Don't try guessing: Klingler is at the Dallas Theological Seminary, studying to become an Old Testament scholar. He says he is already proficient in Greek, Latin, French, German, Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac, so we're guessing that the time he spent studying coach Dave Shula's playbook must have been good for something.
A NEW BOOK ON HEROD THE GREAT is reviewed in Haaretz by Magen Broshi. I'll give a few excerpts, but it's very interesting, so read it all. Haaretz articles are subject to rapid link rot, so don't dawdle.
King on a shrink's couch
By Magen Broshi

"King Herod: A Persecuted Persecutor: A Case Study in Psychohistory and Psychobiography" by Aryeh Kasher, in collaboration with Eliezer Witztum (translated from the Hebrew by Karen Gold), Walter de Gruyter, 514 pages, $193

Now that the world has heard about the discovery of Herod's tomb at Herodium, it also has an extraordinary book about him to read. Authors Prof. Aryeh Kasher, a historian from Tel Aviv University, and Prof. Eliezer Witztum, a psychiatrist from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, have produced a carefully researched and up-to-date historical and psychological analysis of Herod - a man of many exploits but also a raving lunatic. A meaningful analysis of the psyche of a historical character is not always possible, but thanks to the Roman Jewish historian Josephus (one of whose sources was Nicholas of Damascus, who tutored Herod's sons and served as his adviser), we have an abundance of details that seem to be reliable.


Herod was not only the greatest builder in the history of Eretz Israel, but one of the greatest builders in human history. He holds at least three architectural world records: largest palace (Lower Herodium), largest plaza (Temple Mount) and largest royal portico (Temple Mount). His palaces in Jericho and Caesarea, and his fortresses on Masada, Herodium and Machaerus, were only a fraction of his architectural endeavors. The port he built in Caesarea was one of the most sophisticated in the ancient world. His masterpiece, of course, was the Temple, possibly followed by the splendid edifice he built over the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.


From adolescence Herod showed signs of paranoia, exhibited in pathological suspiciousness. He trusted no one (apart from his quarrelsome sister) and had delusions that people were plotting against him. He suffered from extreme mood swings that became progressively worse over the years. His paranoia increased, too: Not only did he execute his bodyguards, servants and courtiers, but also his three sons (the last one five days before his own death), his brother-in-law, his mother-in-law and his adored wife. Some of his victims were cruelly tortured before their deaths, testifying to sadistic tendencies. No wonder the people, and presumably many of his close associates, feared and hated him.

Fifty years ago, Schalit published "Hordus hamelekh - ha'ish" (translated into German as "Koenig Herodes"). Readers have the right to ask if there is any justification for a new book. The answer is a resounding yes: Kasher and Witztum break new ground with psychohistorical and psychobiographical analyses that explain many of Herod's actions. Moreover, over the past 50 years our knowledge has been enriched by close examination of the writings of Josephus and many archaeological findings. During this time, large-scale digs were carried out all over the country, from Masada and the Banias to Jericho and Caesarea, which have added greatly to our understanding.

The book is also commendable in that it does not judge Herod, as so many earlier historians have. ...
Israel Museum Breaks Ground for Comprehensive Campus Project

JERUSALEM.- The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, has launched a comprehensive $80-million project to transform and unify the facilities on its landmark campus, with the goal of increasing accessibility to the Museum’s collections and enhancing the overall visitor experience. Design of the project, the most comprehensive undertaking since the Museum’s opening in 1965, is a joint initiative of the New York-based firm James Carpenter Design Associates and the Israeli firm Efrat-Kowalsky Architects. The Museum anticipates celebrating the completion of the campus project in time for its 45th anniversary in mid-2010.

“The founding of the Israel Museum was one of the most important events following the founding of the State of Israel,” remarked Israel’s President-Elect Shimon Peres at the Museum’s International Council, which convened earlier this month. “Its renewal is central to the future of Israel. If politics are part of everyday life, the Israel Museum is part of life’s inspiration.”

The project was motivated first and foremost to enhance visitor services and facilities on the Museum’s campus, which has grown ten-fold in the past four decades, and to improve the presentation of the Museum’s encyclopedic collections, which have developed impressively since its founding in 1965. The multi-year program will create new entrance facilities, an enclosed route of passage from the front of the campus to a relocated main entrance hall with access to the Museum’s curatorial collection wings, reorganized and expanded collection galleries, and newly centralized temporary exhibition space. Overall, 80,000 square feet of new construction will be added and 200,000 square feet of gallery space will be renovated within the Museum’s existing 500,000-square-foot architectural envelope. The Museum is also concurrently working with the international design firm of Pentagram Partners, London, to renew the Bronfman Archaeology Wing, planned to provide a narrative timeline of the archaeological history of the ancient Land of Israel.

About 1,800 visitors attend museum's exhibit of ancient fragments on first day
By Sandi Dolbee

June 30, 2007

BALBOA PARK – Christine DeCoup's mind wandered as she looked at the leather fragments written by a biblical scribe more than 2,000 years ago.

Her younger sister, Katie, nodded her head. “That it would be all so famous,” she said.

“And a display in a museum,” added their mother, Linda.

After three years of planning, San Diego's first exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls opened yesterday to visitors from San Diego to Georgia, who pronounced it somewhere between “fascinating” and “fantastic.”

Visits have at about a little over half capacity so far. And here's a common reaction when someone first actually sees the Scrolls:
The DeCoup family – Christine, 21; Katie, 18; and Linda, 47, who came down from Orange County – admitted to being a little disappointed that the “scrolls” were not actually big, intact rolls of writings. Instead, what they saw often resembled a jigsaw puzzle with several pieces missing.

“It was still cool,” Katie said.

UPDATE: "Let there not be too much light."