Saturday, September 15, 2007

THE COSMIC SYNCHRONICITIES CONTINUE TO PILE UP. The first day of Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, was also New Year's Day 2000 in the Ethiopian calendar and the beginning of the Cartagena Punic festival in Spain. That was the 12th of September. I've just realized that the 13th of September -- which was still the first day of Rosh HaShanah, because in the reckoning of the Jewish calendar the day begins at sundown -- was the first day of Ramandan. Best wishes to Muslims observing it.

JAMES KUGEL'S NEW BOOK, HOW TO READ THE BIBLE, is reviewed in the New York Times:
Irreconcilable Differences in Bible’s Interpretations

Published: September 15, 2007

“How to Read the Bible” is a most unusual how-to book. For one thing, it is more than 800 pages long and has 971 endnotes. It is true that all the familiar figures and events of the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament are here: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and the prophets.

But the book, written by James L. Kugel and just published by the Free Press, also propounds a stark and challenging thesis, namely that contemporary Bible readers are confronted with two radically different ways of approaching Scripture and that both approaches are impressive and admirable — and fundamentally incompatible.

Professor Kugel, it should be noted, is a rare master of both approaches. Now teaching in Israel, he was for years one of the most popular teachers at Harvard. When attendance at his introductory Bible course (often running more than 900 students) finally edged ahead of a similarly popular course in economics, The Harvard Crimson headlined “God Beats Mammon.”

That's got to be a candidate for best Crimson headline ever. In the late 80s I was a teaching fellow for The Bible and Its Interpreters and it was less than a third of the size of Ec 10. But it was growing fast.
The book highlights not only the familiar dramatis personae of the Bible, but also two groups who have struggled mightily with biblical texts. He calls them the “ancient interpreters” and the “modern scholars.”

Over the last 150 years, modern biblical scholars have revealed the Bible as an amalgam of often conflicting texts composed from different sources by different authors and with different agendas often far from the spiritual and moral concerns of traditional Judaism and Christianity or of today’s believers.


These [ancient] interpreters differed wildly in their efforts, sometimes highly fanciful, to resolve inconsistencies or apparent contradictions in the Bible’s texts, to offer moral justifications for biblical behavior and draw lessons for their contemporaries. That was most obvious, of course, in the differences between Jews and Christians.

But Professor Kugel argues that they all converged on four assumptions about the Bible.

They believed, first, that deeper meanings lay behind biblical texts, that the Bible was a book of instruction about the world and how to serve God in it, that it was somehow “seamless” and harmonious despite surface conflicts and, finally, that it was of divine origin.

On the basis of these assumptions, these early interpreters engaged in nothing less than “a massive act of rewriting,” Professor Kugel writes: “The raw material that made up the Bible was written anew not by changing its words but by changing the way in which those words were approached and understood.” It was the Bible of these interpreters that, in his view, actually constituted the Bible for Jews and Christians for two millennia.

Read it all. Heck, just go and get the book.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A PUNIC ANNUAL FESTIVAL IN SPAIN began yesterday on the 12th:
Carthaginians and Romans Festival - Cartagena
By h.b. - Sep 12, 2007 - 4:59 PM

This fiesta takes place in the second half of September and celebrations run for ten days

The city which is home to Spain’s main Mediterranean naval base, Cartagena, in the Murcia Region, was, as its name suggests, founded by the Carthaginians.
It was founded as Qart Hadasht (Punic for new city) by the Carthaginian general, Hasdrubal, in around 227, and soon became the Carthaginians’ main centre of operations in the Mediterranean.


Today, the people of Cartagena celebrate that period of their rich history with the Cartagineses y Romanos festival, running for 10 days in the second half of September.
These relatively recent celebrations open on the penultimate Friday of the month with a call to the gods for the sacred fire to light the torch which will remain lit night and day throughout the festival. Later on that night, is the presentation of the Carthaginian troops and the Roman Legions, before they march to the festival’s military camp.

The following days see a living chess tournament, the wedding of Hannibal and Himilce, a Roman circus, and the Carthaginians disembarking in the port before a re-enactment of Hannibal’s departure from Qart Hadasht to Rome with 90,000 troops, 12,000 cavalry and 50 war elephants.

The next Friday sees the recreation of the sea battle which formed part of the Roman forces’ two-pronged attack on the city more than 2,000 years ago, followed that afternoon by the Legions disembarking to join their land troops before Qart Hadasht is taken for Rome.
The battle ends with the capitulation of the Carthaginian commander, and a victorious march through the streets of New Carthage by the Legions who took the city for Rome.

The final day sees a homage to the Roman soldiers who fell in the battle, and forces from both sides parade through the streets of Cartagena.
Hannibal started from Cartagena when he began his campaign across the Alps to Italy and the city was later captured by the Roman General Publius Cornelius Scipio.

Some modern Punic warriors
2 Baruch (Edition 2.0)
edited by Daniel M. Gurtner with David M. Miller and Ian W. Scott

All of the primary evidence for the Apocalypse of Baruch (2 Baruch) is now included in this new edition prepared by Daniel M. Gurtner. The only complete text of 2 Baruch is preserved in one Syriac manuscript (7a1). Chapters 1–77 of this manuscript, comprising the full text of the Apocalypse, are transcribed here in their entirety as they appear in the edition of Dedering. Dedering’s edition also records a large number of conjectural emendations as well as manuscript variants found in three Jacobite lectionaries. These have been included in the OCP’s interactive critical apparatus. Also included in this edition is the surviving Greek evidence for 2 Baruch found in manuscript P.Oxy. 403 and the single Latin excerpt found in Cyprian, Test. 3.29.

Visions of Amram (Edition 1.0)
edited by Robert Duke

The Visions of Amram is a previously unknown work included among the Dead Sea Scrolls and preserved in five Aramaic copies (4Q543–547). The version presented here, compiled by Robert Duke, is the first eclectic text of the Visions of Amram. This edition was produced directly from photographic images of the fragments, and in a few cases this results in different readings from those of Émile Puech’s DJD edition. The “chapter” and “verse” numbers are new to this edition. Each “chapter” represents a distinct narrative episode in the document, and Duke suggests that these episodes appeared in the original document in the order they are presented here. Note that these numbers do not correspond to the fragment, column, and line numbers by which Armam has previously been referenced. A critical apparatus of all the variants evident in the five manuscripts is being prepared, and this will allow readers to view each fragment separately.
This from an SBL Publications e-mail announcement that also notes:
Mac-Friendly Reader Interface
Mac users will be glad to hear that documents in the Online Critical Pseudepigrapha are now presented in an upgraded reader interface that is fully compatible with the Safari web browser as well as with Internet Explorer and Firefox.
UPDATE: Joe Weaks at the Macintosh Biblioblog says that the site still doesn't work with Safari. I just checked it myself (like Joe, I normally use Firefox) and he's right.
FROM GORGIAS PRESS, an important reprint:
Smith, Robert Payne. Syriac Thesaurus

Author: Robert Payne Smith
Title: Syriac Thesaurus
Subtitle: Thesaurus Syriacus
Series: Gorgias Historical Dictionaries 7
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Publication Date: 9/13/2007 3:29:59 PM
Availability: In Print
ISBN: 978-1-59333-553-3
Language: Syriac
Format: Hardback 8.25 x 11, 3 volume(s), vi + 479; 453; xiv + 575; 751; xix + 345 pages, illustrations

A massive work of erudition, Smith’s Thesaurus Syriacus has stood the test of time. Rendering Syriac into the scholarly Latin of the day, this dictionary made Syriac available to scholars of the western world. Still utilized for its thoroughness and authority, this lexicon, including the posthumously prepared supplement in English, is now being made available in a three-volume edition that includes the essential 1927 supplement.

Robert Payne Smith (1819-1895) was Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University. He later went on to become the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral. The Thesaurus Syriacus was his most noted publication.
DEAD SEA DISCOVERIES has published three issues since the last time I noted it here. My bad. Tables of contents:

For issue 13.3 (2006):
pp. 271-276(6)
Authors: de Troyer, Kristin; Lange, Armin


Pre-Maccabean Literature from the Qumran Library and the Hebrew Bible
pp. 277-305(29)
Author: Lange, Armin

Prayers and Psalms from The Pre-Maccabean Period
pp. 306-318(13)
Author: Schuller, Eileen M.

The Law, the Prophets, and the Rest: The State of the Bible in Pre-Maccabean Times
pp. 319-338(20)
Author: Grabbe, Lester L.

The Writing of Early Scrolls and the Literary Analysis of Hebrew Scripture
pp. 339-347(9)
Author: Tov, Emanuel

Pre-Maccabean Halakhah in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Biblical Tradition
pp. 348-361(14)
Author: Schiffman, Lawrence H.

Book Reviews

Book Reviews
pp. 362-388(27)
For issue 14.1 (2007):

Incidental Biblical Exegesis in the Qumran Scrolls and Its Importance for the Study of the Second Temple Period
pp. 1-24(24)
Author: Barzilai, Gabriel

Essenes at Qumran? A Rejoinder to Albert Baumgarten
pp. 25-33(9)
Author: Broshi, Magen

Moses' Hebrew Name: The Evidence of the Vision of Amram
pp. 34-48(15)
Author: Duke, Robert

Babatha, Rabbi Levi and Theodosius: Black Coins in Late Antiquity
pp. 49-60(12)
Author: Goldenberg, David

The Development of the Early Recensions of the Damascus Document
pp. 61-76(16)
Author: Kister, Menahem

Radiocarbon Dating and the Dead Sea Scrolls: A Comment on "Redating"
pp. 77-89(13)
Author: van der Plicht, Johannes

The Use of the Participle in the Hebrew Bar Kosiba Letters in the Light of Aramaic
pp. 90-98(9)
Author: Gzella, Holger

The Literary Character of 4QTanhumim
pp. 99-123(25)
Authors: Høgenhaven, Jesper
For issue 14.2 (2007):

pp. 125-151(27)
Author: Atkinson, Kenneth

pp. 152-177(26)
Author: Kapfer, Hilary Evans

pp. 178-198(21)
Author: Morgenstern, Matthew

pp. 199-221(23)
Author: Reed, Stephen A.

pp. 222-243(22)
Author: Stacey, David

pp. 244-253(10)
Author: Magness, Jodi

pp. 254-254(1)
Author: Stacey, David

pp. 255-256(2)
Author: Magness, Jodi

Book Reviews

Enoch and Qumran Origins: New Light on a Forgotten Connection
pp. 257-289(33)
Requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access.
ANOTHER ARAMAIC TATTOO TRAGEDY that could have been avoided if the bearer had had sense enough to consult Steve Caruso.

UPDATE: Steve gives the corrected version here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

MORE BNTC REPORTS: Sean the Baptist has a post on last week's British New Testament Conference and he links to three other reports besides mine.
HARVARD THEOLOGICAL REVIEW has a Pseudepigrapha-related article in its latest issue (100.3, July 2007):
The Song of Songs and the Testament of Solomon: Solomon's Love Poetry and Christian Magic
Jesse Rainbow

A widespread early Christian tradition regarded Solomon as the great exorcist and magician of antiquity, the forerunner of the exorcistic activity of Jesus, and the genius of later Christian magic and divination. In time, this tradition (henceforth the “Solomon magus” tradition) would become increasingly syncretistic and would yield the numerous grimoires and claviculae of the Middle Ages, but in the early centuries of Christianity, the tradition produced texts which were more or less haggadic, that is, engaged in the exegesis of canonical materials and rooted in earlier Jewish interpretive traditions. Modern students of the documents of this tradition have long perceived its debt to the Old Testament, particularly to the portrait of Solomon in 1 Kgs 5:9–14 (4:29–34), a text which both traditional Christian and modern critical interpreters have subsequently explained in nonmagical terms. While Solomon's magical identity is widely recognized to be inspired by the biblical description of his greatness, little is known about how readers in the Solomon magus tradition interpreted the canonical books of traditional Solomonic authorship—the Song of Songs, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Wisdom of Solomon.
Requires a paid personal or institutional subscrition to access, or can be bought as an individual item.
ROBERT ALTER'S TRANSLATION OF THE PSALMS is reviewed in the Jewish Exponent:
'The Lord Is My Light and My Rescue'
September 13, 2007 - Robert Leiter, Literary Editor

What Jew or Christian -- in fact, what feeling person -- has not turned to the psalms for a bit of comfort at times of stress or need? These verses have soothed countless souls over the millennia, a task which they were so obviously created to accomplish.

The centrality that the Book of Psalms holds in Jewish culture -- for believers and nonbelievers alike -- is what has motivated the great scholar Robert Alter to rethink and refashion these splendid works of liturgical art, just as he has done in the recent past for the Five Books of Moses and the story of David. His new translation of The Book of Psalms, published recently by W.W. Norton, is a major endeavor, and comes just in time to be of real use and solace to readers during the High Holiday period.

COSMIC SYNCHRONICITY WATCH: This year the Ethiopian calendar marks year 2000 according to its reckoning. (This has gotten a lot of press notice, with headlines like "Ethiopia parties like it's 1999."). I just noticed that their New Year chanced to come this year on the same day as the opening of Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year.

Ethiopic scholar Ephraim Isaac explains the calendar here:
The Ethiopians are the only nation using their own calendar as the calendars of the rest of the world are based on the work of the old Egyptian astronomers who discovered, as early as three to four thousand years BC - that the solar or sidereal year lasted slightly less than 365-and-a-quarter days. It was however left to the astronomers of the Alexandrian school to incorporate this knowledge into some sort of calendar, and it was these astronomers who also came up with the idea of leap years. Consequently, the Romans, under Julius Caesar, borrowed their reformed calendar from the Alexandrian science and adopted it for the Western world.

The Copts handed this calendar, together with their method of computing the date of Easter, on to their descendant Church in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian year therefore has something in common with the Western year, having been derived from the same source. The Ethiopians, as such, retain the old Egyptian system whereby the year was divided into 12 months of 30 days, with one additional month of five days (six days during the leap year). The Ethiopian calendar therefore falls seven to eight years behind the Western model and has done so since early Christian times.

Ethiopian Millennium activist, Professor Ephraim Isaac, explains that the Ethiopian calendar is not the same as the Julian or the Gregorian calendars used widely by the rest of the world.

"Some people consider the Ethiopian calendar as being the same as the Julian calendar. But ours is not exactly Julian. Originally, the Julian calendar was a calendar from about 40 BC. There were 365 days during the leap year. Both Julian and Gregorian calendars are 30 or 31 days with February being either 28 or 29 days. Now the Gregorian calendar is the revision of the Julian calendar, which Pope Gregory edited or decided to change according to certain calculation.

They share certain characteristics in terms of 365 and 366 days during the leap year. But our calendar has 30 days every month and additional five or six days during the leap year. Ethiopian calculation is documented in a book called Mesafe Hisab, which is found in Ethiopia.

It is based on the early Christian calendar, which is derived from the Alexandrian Jewish calendar. What is significant is that both Western and Ethiopian calendars both calculate the era (days) from the day Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity was born.
Happy New Year to the Ethiopians too!
Jerusalem Affairs: Mounting Temple Mount pressure
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS (Jerusalem Post)

It is being called some of the most extensive work on the Temple Mount in more than a decade. The two-month-old dig on the Temple Mount is being carried out by Islamic officials - with Israeli approval - as part of infrastructure repair, to fix faulty electrical lines on the ancient compound.

A group of independent Israeli archeologists has petitioned the High Court of Justice to stop it, however - something that has received scant coverage in the international press.

The work, which is being carried out with the approval of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the state-run Antiquities Authority, has been repeatedly condemned by local archeologists, claiming that antiquities are being damaged, and calling for its immediate cessation.


Islamic officials routinely deny that the ancient Jewish Temples even existed at the site, while Antiquities Authority spokeswoman Dalit Menzin has repeatedly declined to comment on the issue.

I think the refusal of the IAA to comment is inexcusable. If they have a justification for what is happening, they should speak up. They are given a verbal drubbing later in the article by Eilat Mazar and I think her accusations require an answer.
WITH no response from the government, members of the non-partisan Committee against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount this week petitioned the High Court of Justice to stop "work which is causing irreversible damage to antiquities and archeological artifacts of the greatest importance."

The petition against the premier and the Antiquities Authority, which is signed by the cream of Israel's archeological community, is largely symbolic, however, since the court has never intervened in the goings-on at the Temple Mount or ruled against the government on the supersensitive issue.

Still, the petition - which has been signed by such heavyweights as author A. B. Yehoshua; former Tel Aviv mayor Shlomo Lahat; executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein; prominent archeologists Ephraim Stern, Amihai Mazar, Ehud Netzer, Israel Finkelstein, Moshe Kochavi, as well as Barkai and leading Temple Mount expert Dr. Eilat Mazar - carries moral weight if nothing else.

Background here.

UPDATE: Hershel Shanks weighs in at the New Jersey Jewish News. Excerpt:
Observers have reported seeing numerous antiquities in the excavated dirt and in the trench, including mosaic tesserae, a quantity of pottery vessels (some of which had been freshly broken by the tractor scoop), and carefully carved and decorated building stones typical of the Second Temple period. Last week, as I said earlier, the excavation hit part of an unusually wide wall that has now been destroyed. It could well have been part of the Temple complex.

Barkay and Mazar continue to protest vehemently and publicly. But they have mostly been met with silence. The archaeological community as such has not raised its voice. Each archaeologist is concerned with his or her own dig, not someone else's violation of the antiquities law. And why jeopardize a career by making trouble when all the well-known political names and faces remain silent? Yes, a few newspaper articles have appeared, but nothing serious.

The Antiquities Authority has been queried on several occasions about this violation of Israel's antiquities laws —on Judaism's holiest site —but the response has always been the same: "No comment."

This thundering silence perhaps explains why the Israeli embassy in Washington has not provided any account or explanation of this depredation on the Temple Mount. Why raise questions and create a problem when nobody really cares?
Diamond reveals hidden writings
By Liz Seward
Science reporter, York [BBC]

The hidden content in ancient works could be illuminated by a light source 10 billion times brighter than the Sun.

The technique employs Britain's new facility, the Diamond synchrotron, and could be used on works such as the Dead Sea Scrolls or musical scores by Bach.

Intense light beams will enable scientists to uncover the text in scrolls and books without having to open - and potentially damage - them.

The research was presented at the British Association science festival.

Wish list

The National Archives has donated some 18th Century fire-damaged scrolls that have never been unrolled, due to their condition. But the team also has a wish-list of works that they plan to probe.

Professor Wess said: "There are some parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls which have not been unrolled."

This sounds cool, but as far as I know, there are no substantial Dead Sea Scroll fragments that remain unrolled, and Joe Zias, who once curated the Scrolls, says on the g-Megillot list that there aren't. Perhaps there are still unseparated clumps from things like the Temple Scroll or the Genesis Apocryphon? Does anyone out there know?

UPDATE: Peter Head remarks, "The Diamond Synchroton: No, not a new Robert Ludlum novel."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A BLEG: I have an MLitt student coming in who is interested in doing research on "Messianic Judaism." I am up on the critical literature on Jewish-Christianity in antiquity but considerably less so for the modern period. Can anyone recommend some serious academic studies of modern Messianic Jewish movements? Literature (including websites) by Messianic Jews would also be of interest, especially in relation to Zionism. Thanks in advance for your help.

UPDATE: There seems to be a problem with the "blogger-at-paleojudaica dot com" address given above. But you can use my normal e-mail address:
SHANAH TOVAH! Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year and biblical holy convocation of trumpets, begins this evening at sundown. Happy New Year, 5768, to all those celebrating.
THE LATEST ON THE BARNARD TENURE CONTROVERSY over the work of Nadia Abu El-Haj comes from the Associated Press:
Controversy Over New York Prof's Tenure
By DEEPTI HAJELA 09.12.07, 3:37 AM ET


A debate over an anthropologist's book on ancient Hebrew history isn't just academic - it's spilled over into online a dispute between critics trying to keep her from getting tenure and supporters who say the effort stifles scholarly freedom.

Nadia Abu El-Haj, has been teaching at Columbia Univerity's Barnard College since 2002. Her book, "Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society," looks at the importance of archaeology in forming Israel's national identity.

The 2001 book discusses how archaeological discoveries have been used to defend the country's territorial claims and contributed to the idea of Israel as the ancient home of the Jewish people.

The professor, who is of Palestinian descent, argues that Israel has used archaeology to justify its existence in the region, sometimes at the expense of other nationalities like the Palestinians.


Barnard religion professor Alan Segal said he is against granting tenure to Abu El-Haj based on her work, which he said he has read. He called the public petitions for and against her tenure "silly" but added that they were unlikely to have any effect on the tenure decision.

"I don't believe it's affected the process in any way," he said, adding that the Barnard faculty, by and large, supports Abu El-Haj.

UPDATE (16 September): More here.
THE JOURNAL OF SEMITIC STUDIES has a new issue out too (52.2, Autumn 2007). Table of contents (articles):
Meirav Tubul
Nouns with Double Plural Forms in Biblical Hebrew
J Semitic Studies 2007 52: 189-210; doi:10.1093/jss/fgm001

Hélène Nutkowicz
Concerning the Verb SN' in Judaeo-Aramaic Contracts from Elephantine
J Semitic Studies 2007 52: 211-225; doi:10.1093/jss/fgm002

Michael B. Shepherd
The Distribution of Verbal Forms in Biblical Aramaic
J Semitic Studies 2007 52: 227-244; doi:10.1093/jss/fgm003

Matthew Morgenstern
On Some Non-Standard Spellings in the Aramaic Magic Bowls and their Linguistic Significance
J Semitic Studies 2007 52: 245-277; doi:10.1093/jss/fgm004

Fred M. Donner
Quranic Furqan
J Semitic Studies 2007 52: 279-300; doi:10.1093/jss/fgm005

R.P. Buckley
The Morphology and Significance of Some Imami Shi‘ite Traditions
J Semitic Studies 2007 52: 301-334; doi:10.1093/jss/fgm006

Jonathan A.C. Brown
New Data on the Delateralization of Dad and its merger with Za’ in Classical Arabic: Contributions from Old South Arabic and the Earliest Islamic Texts on D / Z Minimal Pairs
J Semitic Studies 2007 52: 335-368; doi:10.1093/jss/fgm007
And there are lots of book reviews, many of which are also of interest. Have a look.

Abstracts are free, but you need a paid personal or institutional subscription to download the complete articles and book reviews.
HUGOYE: JOURNAL OF SYRIAC STUDIES has just published a new issue (10.2, Summer 2007). Table of contents:
In Memoriam

Bruce Manning Metzger (1914-2007).
Ian Torrance, Princeton Theological Seminary

Taeke Jansma (1919-2007).
Lucas van Rompay, Duke University


Syriac Language And Script In A Chinese Setting: Nestorian Inscriptions From Quanzhou, China.
Majella Franzmann, University of New England

The Edessan Milieu and the Birth of Syriac.
John F. Healey, University of Manchester

Kthobonoyo Syriac: Some Observations and Remarks.
George Kiraz, Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute

Brief Article

150 Years of Syriac Studies at the University of Toronto.
Amir Harrak, University of Toronto

Publications and Book Reviews

Sebastian P. Brock, An Introduction to Syriac Studies (revised second edition).
Robert A. Kitchen, Knox-Metropolitan United Church

Sebastian P. Brock, The Wisdom of St. Isaac of Nineveh.
Robert A. Kitchen, Knox-Metropolitan United Church

Adam H. Becker, Fear of God and the Beginning of Wisdom. The School of Nisibis and Christian Scholastic Culture in Late Antique Mesopotamia.
Ilaria Ramelli, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan

Isaac Armalet, Catalogue of the Syriac and Arabic Manuscripts at the Patriarchal Library of Charfet.
David G.K. Taylor, Oxford University

Project Report

The BYU-CUA Syriac Studies Reference Library: A Final Report.
Carl W. Griffin and Kristian S. Heal, Brigham Young University
Conference Reports

The 6th Italian Meeting on Syriac Christianity, Milan, May 25, 2007.
Alessandro Mengozzi, Facoltà di Lingue e Letterature Straniere, Italy

Vth Syriac Symposium, University of Toronto, June 25-27, 2007.
Robert A. Kitchen, Knox-Metropolitan United Church

Dorushe Conference 2007, Princeton, April 14-15, 2007.
Jeanne-Nicole Saint-Laurent, Brown University

The Literary Production of Melkites in the pre-Ottoman Era (AD 750-1516), Sayyidat al-Bir (Lebanon), January 24–26, 2008.


Beth Mardutho Amazon Associates

Journal of the Canadian Society of Syriac Studies

Gorgias Press

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

THE JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF THE PSEUDEPIGRAPHA has a new issue (May 2007) out. Table of contents and abstracts:
Vered Hillel
Naphtali, a Proto-Joseph in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2007 16: 171-201.
The Greek Testament of Naphtali (TNaph) 1.7, 8 states that Joseph, as a result of Rachel's prayer for a son like Naphtali from her own womb, was like (µ{iota}{varsigma}) Naphtali in all things. Naphtali's association with Joseph, as well as developed Naphtali traditions stemming from the period of the Second Temple and reworked and remodeled in the Middle Ages, is well known from non-biblical traditions. Naphtali traditions are preserved in four different works 4QTestament of Naphtali (4QTNaph), the Greek Testament of Naphtali (TNaph), the Medieval Hebrew Testament of Naphtali (Heb. Naph.) and Midrash bereshit rabbati (BR). However, the writer of TNaph develops the comparison between Naphtali and Joseph beyond any known biblical or non-biblical tradition. For example, by equating Naphtali with Joseph, TNaph enhances the prestige of the 'Naphtali traditions'. As a result, the figure of Naphtali emerges as a type of Joseph, or, as a so-called proto-Joseph. This article seeks to demonstrate that such an understanding of Naphtali is borne out by an examination of the character of Naphtali as portrayed in TNaph and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (TPatr) as a whole and by the manner in which the author adopted and adapted traditional material.
Sarah L. Schwarz
Reconsidering the Testament of Solomon
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2007 16: 203-237.
The Testament of Solomon (TSol) as translated in modern editions comes from a body of Greek sources which integrate the tale of Solomon's construction of the Jerusalem Temple aided by demons with an encyclopedic collection of recipes for use in dealing with the demons in question. While the title suggests a relatively fixed text, the situation is in fact far more complex. This study argues that the text (or texts) in fullest form, as represented in late medieval manuscripts, is actually quite a late development in this tradition's history, and that most of the elements which eventually come together under the title TSol (and the like) circulated independently during the late antique period.
Lorenzo DiTommaso
Book Review: CHAZON, ESTHER G., DAVID SATRAN, and Ruth A. CLEMENTS (eds.). Things Revealed: Studies in Early Jewish and Christian Literature in Honor of Michael E. Stone. Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 89. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004. Cloth, xxvi + 405 pp. 144.00 Euros, 194.00 USD. ISBN 9004138854
Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2007 16: 239-240.

Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2007 16: 240.
Requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access the full articles.
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH - The Jerusalem Post has an editorial on the High Court petition to halt the Waqf excavations:
Safeguard the Temple Mount

On Sunday, the Committee to Prevent the Destruction of Temple Mount Antiquities (CPDTMA) petitioned the High Court of Justice to stop the Wakf, the Muslim religious trust to which Israel has delegated substantial control over the Temple Mount, from using tractors to dig a deep, half-kilometer long trench into the most sensitive archeological, religious and historical site in Israel. Today, we hope the court will issue an immediate injunction to stop this travesty.


As a newspaper, The Jerusalem Post has signed on to the CPDTMA's court petition to remove the current draconian restrictions on press coverage of the Temple Mount. Among those recently denied access were CNN, Channel 1 and Israel Radio.

The police cannot point to any legal basis for these press restrictions, and we suspect that the High Court, if it considers the matter as it should, will find none. If some legal fig leaf is presented, the court should overturn it as an egregious violation of freedom of the press.

That Muslim authorities have been given a great degree of authority over the Temple Mount is an important manifestation of our national commitment to freedom of religion. Such freedom, however, must not include the right to trample other principles, such as the illegality of violence, the need to preserve an archeological heritage of great significance to Judaism, Islam and Christianity and to multiple scientific disciplines, and the imperative to safeguard freedom of the press.

Read it all.

UPDATE (13 September): More here.
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: has video of "A Rare Glimpse Inside the Dom[e] of the Rock."

Monday, September 10, 2007

IN THE MAIL - a review copy of:
Rachel Elior, Jewish Mysticism: The Infinite Expression of Freedom (The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2007)
High Court asked to halt Muslim dig on Temple Mount
By Nadav Shragai (Haaretz)

Members of the Committee to Prevent the Destruction of Temple Mount Antiquities petitioned the High Court of Justice yesterday to stop an excavation by the Waqf, or Muslim religious trust, on the Temple Mount.

Waqf officials say the digging of the trench, 500 meters long and 1.5 meters deep, is necessary to replace 40-year-old electric cables. But the petitioners say the work "is causing irreversible damage to antiquities and archaeological artifacts of the greatest importance, and is being carried out illegally, without the requisite authorizations."

The petition, against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, other cabinet ministers and the Israel Antiquities Authority, maintains that Temple courtyards were located where the dig is taking place, and that some 400 tons of dirt removed in the process contain priceless archaeological artifacts from various periods.


The petition was signed by author A. B. Yehoshua; former Tel Aviv mayor Shlomo Lahat; Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; prominent archaeologists Ephraim Stern, Amihay Mazar, Ehud Netzer, Israel Finkelstein, Moshe Kochavi, Gabriel Barkai and Eilat Mazar; retired Israel Defense Forces generals Zvi Zamir, Yitzhak Hofi and Giora Eiland; attorney Shmuel Berkovitz; and The Jerusalem Post, which also claimed that the Mount is closed to media coverage.

UPDATE (11 September): More here.
THE BARNARD TENURE CONTROVERSY over the work of Nadia Abu El-Haj has been taken up by the New York Times:
Fracas Erupts Over Book on Mideast by a Barnard Professor Seeking Tenure

Published: September 10, 2007

A tenure bid by an assistant professor of anthropology at Barnard College who has critically examined the use of archaeology in Israel has put Columbia University once again at the center of a struggle over scholarship on the Middle East.

The professor, Nadia Abu El-Haj, who is of Palestinian descent, has been at Barnard since 2002 and has won many awards and grants, including a Fulbright scholarship and fellowships at Harvard and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. Barnard has already approved her for tenure, officials said, and forwarded its recommendation to Columbia University, its affiliate, which has the final say.

It is Dr. Abu El-Haj’s book, “Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society,” that has made her a lightning rod, setting off warring petitions opposing and supporting her candidacy, and producing charges of shoddy scholarship and countercharges of an ideological witch hunt.


Born in the United States in 1962, Dr. Abu El-Haj studied at Bryn Mawr College and earned a Ph.D. at Duke. In her book, which grew out of her doctoral research and was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2001, Dr. Abu El-Haj says Israeli archaeologists searched for an ancient Jewish presence to help build the case for a Jewish state. In their quest, she writes, they sometimes used bulldozers, destroying remains of other cultures, including those of Arabs.

She concludes her book by saying the ransacking by thousands of Palestinians in 2000 of Joseph’s tomb, a Jewish holy site in the West Bank, “needs to be understood in relation to a colonial-national history” of Israel and the symbolic resonance of artifacts.

Many people are quoted on the book, pro and con. One of them is Alan Segal:
Dr. Abu El-Haj has some opponents at her own college. “There is every reason in the world to want her to have tenure, and only one reason against it — her work,” said Alan F. Segal, a professor of religion and Jewish studies at Barnard. “I believe it is not good enough.”

He said he was particularly troubled by her suggestion that ancient Israelites had not inhabited the land where Israel now stands, and he said that she had either misunderstood or ignored evidence to the contrary. “She completely misunderstands what the biblical tradition is saying,” he added. “She is not even close. She is so bizarrely off.”

He also said that a Barnard official, whom he declined to name, had asked him to suggest people who were not Jewish to comment on Dr. Abu El-Haj’s work for the tenure review, and that he had refused.

Elizabeth Gildersleeve, a Barnard spokeswoman, said that a high official of the college had met with Professor Segal on the tenure case and asked him to submit names for letters of reference. But Ms. Gildersleeve said that “the charge that restrictions were put on that request is absolutely untrue.”

I'm about half-way through the book right now.

UPDATE (12 September): More here.
A DRAINAGE CHANNEL IN JERUSALEM has been discovered which is also thought to have been used as an escape route during the siege of Jerusalem in the Great Revolt:
Ancient Escape Hatch Found in Israel

By AMY TEIBEL – 25 minutes ago

JERUSALEM (AP) — Under threat from Romans ransacking Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, many of the city's Jewish residents crowded into an underground drainage channel to hide and later flee the chaos through Jerusalem's southern end.

The ancient tunnel was recently discovered buried beneath rubble, a monument to one of the great dramatic scenes of the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 A.D.

The channel was dug beneath what would become the main road of Jerusalem, the archaeology dig's directors, Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa and Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said Sunday. Shukron said excavators looking for the road happened upon a small drainage channel that led them to the discovery of the massive tunnel two weeks ago.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

CONFERENCE REPORT (British New Testament Conference 2007):

Here are a few notes and thoughts gathered from this year's BNTC. I should emphasize that these are just my random thoughts about things that happened to make an impression on me, and there's no claim that they are complete, representative, or balanced.

The most interesting thing I learned was in the Social World of the NT Seminar in a session on magic. In the discussion of a stimulating paper by Helen Ingram, it was noted that in the story of the raising of Lazarus in John 11, Jesus is said, oddly, twice (vv. 33, 38) to have "sighed deeply" before bringing Lazarus back to life. It seems that the actual meaning of this Greek word is "to snort like a horse," which rather changes one's mental image of the episode and raises the possibility that Jesus was engaging in a ritual performance of the sort known from ancient magical texts (and cf. Mark 7:31-37, esp. v. 34).

Later, in the NT & Second Temple Judaism Seminar we had a good discussion of the Testament of Abraham, on which I have also written in my book. I have grave reservations about the Testament of Abraham's use as "New Testament background," to which use it is still put today. My concerns have to do with doubts about its provenance: in the book I outline three possible origins, as a Jewish composition, a Christian composition, and a composition by a God-Fearer. The problem is that none of the scenarios provides a background in which the text makes complete sense. This may be in part because it has been transmitted rather freely, with a long recension, a short recension, and some variants of the latter surviving, none of which represents the original. But the incoherence of the document may lie even deeper, and we discussed the implications of recent suggestions that it contains a significant element of comedy (see the book by Jared Ludlow). I'm wondering now if trying to distil a coherent and systematic eschatology or theology of repentance from the Testament of Abraham is a little like trying to do the same for movies like Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey or Dogma (also here). That would explain a lot.

I mentioned Larry Hurtado's plenary address in the preceding post. Rather than try to summarize the lecture from my notes, I'll just quote the publisher's blurb on his book from Amazon:
Much attention has been paid to the words of the earliest Christian texts, yet Larry Hurtado argues that an even more telling story is being overlooked — that of the physical texts themselves. Well known for his nimble scholarship, Hurtado combines his comprehensive knowledge of Christian origins with an archivist’s eye to make sense of these earliest objects of the faith.

Hurtado introduces readers to the staurogram, possibly the first representation of the cross, the nomina sacra, a textual abbreviation system, and the puzzling early Christian preference for book-like texts over scrolls. Intended for intellectually engaged readers as well as New Testament scholars and students, The Earliest Christian Artifacts introduces the distinctive features of early Christian manuscripts, illustrating their relevance for wider inquiry into the ancient history of Christianity.
The manuscript-as-artifact is an area that is finally getting the attention it deserves, and I look forward to reading Larry's book.

Larry Hurtado lectures. Helen Bond is in the chair.

One other note on his lecture: at one point he commented in passing that 99% of the Oxyrhynchus papyri remain unpublished and are mostly still just sitting in boxes, unscrutinized. I believe he also said that about 5000 fragments have been published, which would leave, what, half a million to go? My Pseudepigrapha radar always lights up when I hear things like this. There are a few Old Testament Pseudepigrapha fragments among the published Oxyrhynchus texts. (off the top of my head I can think of a manuscript of 2 Baruch, a manuscript of 1 Enoch, and a reference to the Book of Jubilees ["Little Genesis") in a letter.) That implies that another hundred or more fragments and references remain to be identified in the unpublished materials. I guess those will have await the attention of some future "More More Testament Pseudepigrapha Project."

Finally, a message to Mark Goodacre: Cat Smith and Helen Ingram send their love.

If you'd been here, Mark, this could have been you.

Many thanks to Cherryl Hunt, Louise Lawrence, David Horrell, and their postgraduate assistants Dom, John, and Frances for all their hard work to give us a very successful conference.

UPDATE: Mark responds. (And happy belated blogiversary to his New Testament Gateway blog and also to David Meadows's Rogue Classicism.)

UPDATE: Reviews of Hurtado's book are noted here.

UPDATE (13 September): More reports on this year's BNTC are noted here.