Saturday, May 03, 2008

A DEAD SEA SCROLL REPLICA will be on display next week at the Kaleidofest Festival in honor of Israel's sixtieth anniversary:
KaleidoFest also will celebrate Israel's scientific, medical and technological achievements, including work with the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. Part of the exhibit will feature a replica of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest Biblical documents in the world. The St. Louis Jewish community owns one of only four facsimiles of the scrolls outside of Israel, according to Rabbi Brad Horwitz, director of the JCC's Helene Mirowitz Department of Jewish Community Life.
THE OXFORD CENTRE FOR HEBREW AND JEWISH STUDIES gets a new president in the fall:
American to lead Oxford Centre
02/05/2008 (Jewish Chronicle, UK)
By Simon Rocker
An academic who has written books on Kabbalah and Jewish belief is to be the first American head of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.

David Ariel, 58, the acting president of Baltimore Hebrew University, will succeed Peter Oppenheimer in October. He retires after eight years as president of the centre.

And this is especially exciting:
A key objective will be to increase funding for Oxford’s fellowships, as well as endowing new posts in areas such as Sephardic studies, Kabbalah and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Congratulations to David Ariel and to the Oxford Centre.

Friday, May 02, 2008

BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL XXIX has been published at the Dr Jim West blog.
VISION OF GABRIEL UPDATE: Israel Knohl has published an English article on this inscription in the Journal of Religion:
“By Three Days, Live”: Messiahs, Resurrection, and Ascent to Heaven in Hazon Gabriel
Requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access.

Background here and keep following the links back.

UPDATE (15 May): More here (with a no-charge link to the article).

Thursday, May 01, 2008


NPR quotes Anglican minister Martin Palmer as saying the following:
Palmer says priests and rabbis and imams know how to explain complicated, abstract ideas by using parable and metaphor. On this day, he tells a creation story from the ancient Jewish text, the Talmud.

"The Talmud says that the angels went to God and said, 'You just created this wonderful world and now you've created these human beings who will only go and mess it up. Are you start staring mad?' And God says, 'I know what I'm doing. I know what I'm doing.' And then the earth spoke, and the earth was afraid. And the earth said, 'These creatures, they will only rebel against me and harm me.' And God answers, 'I promise you that they will never be allowed to destroy you.'"

Palmer sees it as his job to help God keep that promise.
Talmud experts, is this in the Talmud?

Also, reader George Spragens suggests the following regarding the Nancy Pelosi quote:
"Biblical scholars" can't find the text House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is paraphrasing because they are looking for a stewardship-of-the-earth passage, not the social-justice passage Ms. Pelosi is referencing out of context: "Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him." -- Proverbs 14:31 (NRSV)
Her quotation could be a reworking of this passage with Genesis 2:15 in mind, in good midrashic form. But it still doesn't appear in the Bible.

UPDATE: Iyov suggests that Palmer's quote is "a highly twisted version" of b. Sanhedrin 38b, which Iyov quotes in his post. Reader Aaron Koller e-mailed to suggest this passage and others:
I'm not writing as an expert, but...
The text known to me is in bSan 38b and Genesis Rabbah 8:5, where the angels object to the creation of man, citing Ps 8:5, "what is man that you are mindful of him..." That's not a concern for the environment, but just a belittling of the value of humanity. (There are other version in GenRab, as well.) Something similar is actually in the Qur'an (2:30), as well as in Pirqe de-R. Eliezer 12.

Of course, maybe if we didn't think so highly of ourselves we wouldn't trash the environment -- but I don't know of any explicit guarantees like the one "quoted" by Palmer.
More's the pity. It would be nice to have one.

UPDATE (2 May): Simon Montagu agrees regarding b. Sanhedrin 38b and adds:
However, the classic Rabbinic source for environmentalism is Ecclesiastes Rabbah on 7:13:

בשעה שברא הקב”ה את אדם הראשון נטלו והחזירו על כל אילני גן עדן ואמר לו ראה מעשי כמה נאים ומשובחין הן וכל מה שבראתי בשבילך בראתי, תן דעתך שלא תקלקל ותחריב את עולמי, שאם קלקלת אין מי שיתקן אחריך

When the Holy One, Blessed be He, made the first human, he led him past every tree in the Garden of Eden, saying, “Look at what I have made! See how beautiful and excellent they are! Everything that I created I created for you; take care not to damage or destroy my world, because if you damage it there is nobody else who can repair it after you.”
A PSALMS SCROLL (apparently 11Q5, the Qumran Cave 11 Psalms Scroll) will be on display for President Bush during his visit for the 60th anniversary festivities:
Israel to display rarely seen scroll

10 hours ago

JERUSALEM (AP) — A rarely displayed segment of the Dead Sea Scrolls will be part of an exhibition for President Bush and other dignitaries attending Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations next month, a museum official said Wednesday.

The ancient manuscripts date back over 2,000 years and contain almost the full text of the Jewish Bible.

The segment on display will be from Psalm 133. It reads: "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity."
And as an aside, on the Megillot list Daniel Stoekl Ben Ezra points out that this AP article appears in Haaretz with a bizarre error:
The ancient manuscripts date back over 2,000 years and contain almost the full text of the Jewish Bible, as well as early Christian texts.
Sounds like someone has been reading too much Dan Brown.

Joe Zias comments:
One of the things that I like so much about the AP here in Jrsm is that senior journalists usually let us check out the article for mistakes like this before it goes out. Here it's obvious someone forgot to ask scholars before it went out and now that it's in the public record, the damage is done. I have a feeling that the misinformation may have come from some gov't PR folks as no scholar dealing with the topic would have permitted such a thing.
But the AP article as currently posted does not have the error. Either it was corrected quickly or Haaretz introduced it.

UPDATE: Ken Penner notes that the Haaretz article also has a concluding paragraph not found in the AP version:
Study of the scrolls has been going on for decades, and some scientists
complain that fragments of the scrolls have been given to too few experts, drawing out the process of analyzing them
This might have applied before 1991, but since then the Dead Sea Scrolls have been fully available in photographs (and more recently in full editions) to anyone who wanted to study them. Could this have been cribbed from some old source? The mystery deepens.
RELIGIOUS STUDIES AND THEOLOGY: The Guardian has the lowdown on undergraduate study in the U.K.

UPDATE: The Guardian's 2009 league table ranks the University of St. Andrews at number 2 in the U.K. for Religious Studies and Theology, after Oxford but before Cambridge.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS, THE ALBUM, is forthcoming soon. And the blog is here.
Harry Ransom Center Acquires
Rare Plantin Polyglot Bible

AUSTIN, Texas—The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin has acquired a rare Plantin Polyglot Bible, containing parallel texts in Hebrew, Greek, Syriac and Aramaic with translations and commentary in Latin.

The acquisition of this eight-volume folio was made possible by a major gift from Margaret Hight and an important contribution from Lucy Ross. Additional support came from the Ransom Center's Carl H. Pforzheimer Endowment.


Printed in Antwerp between 1568 and 1572, Christopher Plantin's Polyglot Bible is recognized for its contributions to philological and Biblical scholarship and the printing arts.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

CONGRATULATIONS TO PROFESSOR PETER GENTRY, who has just received a research grant for work on the Septuagint:
Gentry receives research grant for third time
April 28, 2008
By David Roach

For the third time, Peter Gentry, professor of Old Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has received a Lilly Theological Research Grant.

The grant, administered by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and funded by the Lilly Foundation, is awarded after a team of scholars evaluates applicants’ research proposals. ATS is the main accrediting agency for theological schools in North America.

Gentry plans to use the $12,000 award to fund research in Germany during a sabbatical from January through June 2009. The research will allow Gentry to finish a critical edition of the Greek text of Ecclesiastes for the Goettingen Septuagint Series.


Monday, April 28, 2008

THE POLYGLOT BIBLE meets Google digitization:
Digitizing ancient books a laborious process
Globally, hundreds of librarians turning pages for Google

Natasha Robinson, Associated Press

Monday, April 28, 2008

In a dimly lit back room on the second level of the University of Michigan library's book-shelving department, Courtney Mitchel helped a giant desktop machine digest a rare, centuries-old Bible.

Mitchel is among hundreds of librarians from Minnesota to England making digital versions of the most fragile of the books to be included in Google Inc.'s Book Search, a portal that eventually will lead users to all the estimated 50 million to 100 million books in the world.

The manual scanning - up to 600 pages a day - is much slower than Google's regular process.

"It's monotonous," said Mitchel, 24. "But it's still something that I'm learning about - how to interact with really old materials and working with digital imaging, which is relevant to art history."

The unusually tight binding on the early 16th century polyglot Bible made it hard to expose the portions toward the book's middle as Mitchel spread each pair of pages for the scanner. Librarians believe it is the oldest Bible in the world with Arabic type.

Nice project. One quibble (about the article, not the project): I'm not aware of any sixteenth century Polyglot Bibles that included Arabic. The Paris and London Polyglots, both of the seventeenth century, did though. See the Catholic Encyclopedia article on "Polyglot Bibles":
The "Complutensian Bible" published the first printed edition of the Greek Old Testament, the one which was commonly used and reproduced, before the appearance of the edition of Sixtus V, in 1587. It is followed, on the whole, in the Septuagint columns of the four great Polyglots edited by Montanus (Antwerp, 1569-72); Bertram (Heidelberg, 1586-1616); Wolder (Hamburg, 1596); and Le Jay (Paris, 1645). ...

The "Paris Polyglot" in ten volumes, more magnificent than its Antwerp predecessor, was edited with less accuracy, and it lacks a critical apparatus. Its notable additions to the texts of the "Antwerp Bible", which it reproduces without much change, are the Samaritan Pentateuch and its Samaritan version edited with Latin translation by the Oratorian, Jean Morin, the Syriac Old Testament and New Testament Antilegomena, and the Arabic version of the Old Testament.

The "London Polyglot" in six volumes, edited by Brian Walton (1654-7), improved considerably on the texts of its predecessors. Besides them, it has the Ethiopic Psalter, Canticle of Canticles, and New Testament, the Arabic New Testament, and the Gospels in Persian. All the texts not Latin are accompanied by Latin translations, and all, sometimes nine in number, are arranged side by side or one over another on the two pages open before the reader ...
UPDATE: Gilles Firmin e-mails:
Je ne sais pas dans quelle mesure un "librarian" peut distinguer entre le syriaque (présent dans la Polyglotte d'Anvers) et l'arabe... En tout état de cause, l'arabe figurait bien dans la première "polyglotte" imprimée : non pas une Bible complète, toutefois, mais dans le Psautier de Giustiniani (1516).
So there was a Polyglot Psalter of the right period which included Arabic. Perhaps this is the "polyglot Bible" to which the article is referring. Thanks for the correction.
"JESUS AND THE ROMANS": Shmuley Boteach presents a revisionist reading of Jesus in the Jerusalem Post. Excerpt:
If Jesus had lived in Nazi Germany and, during the years of 1940 to 1945, focused his preaching exclusively on matters of faith while ignoring completely the gas chambers and blitzkrieg that was all around him, would we have considered him a righteous leader?

In fact, is this not precisely the argument brought against Pope Pius XII, the man said to be his human representative on earth, nearly two millennia later, when he was utterly silent during the Nazi Holocaust? In his passivity he severely compromised his own moral integrity.

The gospels relate that Jesus famously proclaimed, "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."

In my view, this is an incredible statement. Would Jesus really endorse the greed of the Roman emperor by endorsing his right to exact cruel and unjust tribute as he enslaved peoples throughout the world? Would Jesus really have made himself party to the Roman occupation by directly endorsing the Romans' right to invade and occupy Judea and mercilessly slaughter the patriotic Jews who battled the occupation?

Surely a man as great as Jesus would be on the side of the victims rather than of their oppressors, and would never have advocated blindly accepting Roman rule.

IT IS for this reason that we have to rethink Jesus' mission and what he was trying to accomplish. I have written many articles arguing that it is time for the world Jewish community to reclaim the Jewish Jesus by understanding his original mission and his great love for his people before his story was later edited by Pauline writers and before he was made into an enemy of the Jews and a friend of the Romans.

n my next column on this subject I intend to summarize Maccoby's conclusions that will, based on the sources, make the real Jesus known not as an enemy of Judaism but as a Jewish patriot who sought to win Jewish independence from Rome, and who was thus cut off mercilessly by Pontius Pilate for his act of rebellion.
It's an interesting idea and I look forward to reading the next column or columns. (I haven't read any of the articles he mentions.) But the implied moral equivalence between the Nazis and the ancient Romans is very overdone. The Romans ran an empire in a brutally efficient way, but they didn't engage in systematic genocide for genocide's sake. And whether death by crucifixion was worse than many of the deaths people died in the Nazi death camps is at the very least open to debate.

That said, it's entirely possible that Jesus had criticisms of the Romans that were censored by his earliest followers for the sake of their own safety. But I'd like to see some positive evidence.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

HAPPY EASTER to Orthodox Christians.
Orthodox Christians prepare to celebrate Pascha

By Marcy Ortega
The Reporter-Herald
Most Christians in Loveland celebrated Easter almost five weeks ago, but St. Spyridon Orthodox Christian Church tonight will mark the beginning of the most sacred and holy day of the year.

“The Orthodox Church is so literal that it waits for the celebration of Passover to observe Pascha,” said the Rev. Evan Armatas, the priest at St. Spyridon.

The Orthodox Church follows the ancient Julian calendar when calculating the date for Easter (or “Pascha”). It always is observed after the Hebrew Passover, to maintain the biblical sequence of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, according to Armatas.

Was Miguel de Cervantes a 'Converso' ?
by: Linda Jimenez Glassman Updated: 25/Apr/2008 16:53

MADRID (EJP)---Historian Abraham Haim believes that Miguel de Cervantes’ classic "Don Quixote de la Mancha" is the product of "the silence experienced by a Jewish soul."

A specialist in Sephardic history and culture, Haim made the comment during a lecture "Traces of Judaism in Don Quixote" organized by Casa Sefarad-Israel in Madrid at the Cervantes Institute.

This institute is a worldwide cultural organization created by the Spanish government in 1991 to promote the study and the teaching of Spanish language and culture.

Citing several examples, Haim stated that "Don Quixote" contains numerous references to the Kabbalah and Jewish traditions, and that the only possible explanation for this would be that the author belonged to a family of "Conversos", the Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity or face expulsion from Spain in 1492.

Many of these families continued observing some Jewish practices secretly, which might explain Cervantes’ knowledge of them a century later, when Don Quixote was written.

Haim’s claim that Cervantes’ birth records were probably forged adds credence to this theory.

Apparently this is not a new theory, but it's the first I've heard of it.
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: More on the repairs needed on the Western Wall:
Jerusalem's Wailing Wall at risk of collapse

By Carolynne Wheeler in Jerusalem (The Telegraph)
Last Updated: 12:26am BST 27/04/2008

For thousands of years it has withstood fires, floods and earthquakes. But now a portion of one of Judaism's holiest sites, Jerusalem's Western Wall, is crumbling.

The rabbi charged with watching over the structure, which the faith believes to be the last remnants of a retaining wall from the ancient Second Temple, has warned that a section repaired more than a century ago is again at risk of falling.

A young Jew prays at Jerusalem's Western Wall
Mourning prayer: a young Jew at Jerusalem's Western Wall which is losing its mortar to the rain

Because the weakened stonework is high on the 60ft wall, the danger from any falling fragment to the crowds who pray at its foot each day is particularly acute.

Background here.