Saturday, October 11, 2008

PUNIC WATCH: A couple of items.

Hannibal comes to Hannibal's epic campaign comes to Web-based comic

Published: October 10, 2008
Most have heard the story of the Carthaginian general Hannibal leading elephants across the Alps to face the Romans. Writer Brendan McGinley wants you to see it.

"There’s already plenty of good prose about Hannibal, (but) no good visual medium for a story that crackles with so many unforgettable images, like elephants on the Alps or Mago Barca spilling dead Romans’ rings on the Senate floor,” he said. "Maybe Vin Diesel’s long-stalled film will change that; Victor Mature’s sure didn’t.”

McGinley and artist Mauro Vargas, along with colorist Andres Carranza, bring the Hannibal story to life — with some humorous asides — re-enacting the second Punic War on the Shadowline Web comics page,

Click on the dropdown menu at the upper right to find "Hannibal Goes to Rome."

Background on Vin Diesel's long delayed Hannibal movie is here.

Carthage exhibit to travel to Japan

(Tunisia Online News)

Tunis, October 9, 2008- An itinerary exhibit dubbed “The Legacy of Carthage”, will travel to Japan and remain on display from May 2009 to May 2010.


The itinerary exhibit will comprise some 150 works dating from the Punic and Roman era, notably jewels, objects in ceramics, statues and rare mosaics.

THE RALEIGH, N.C., DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION has had a disappointing turnout so far.
RALEIGH – The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls attracted 50,000 visitors during the first half of its six-month run – well off the pace needed to meet the museum’s goal of selling 250,000 tickets.

Another victim of the economic crash? Compare the words of these newly published Aramaic prophecies. (Satire alert; don't get excited.)

Exhibition background here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A LECTURESHIP IN HEBREW and biblical and postbiblical studies at the University of Sydney:
Lecturer in the fields of Biblical and Post Biblical Hebrew and Biblical Studies
School of Languages and Cultures
Faculty of Arts
University of Sydney
Reference No. 140085

The Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies, within the School of Languages and Cultures, is seeking to appoint a Lecturer in the fields of Biblical and post-Biblical Hebrew, and Biblical Studies. The University of Sydney is the only tertiary institution in Australia which offers a full program in Classical Hebrew and Biblical Studies at undergraduate, Masters and doctoral levels.

The Department has recently expanded, and therefore is looking for an innovative and creative Lecturer who is qualified to fill this challenging position. The successful candidate will be qualified in the fields of Classical and/or Medieval Hebrew and Biblical Studies, with a doctorate completed or under examination in the field. Teaching expertise in rabbinical studies, post-Biblical Hebrew, Mishnah, and Talmudic studies is essential, as is a proven ability to teach in Biblical Studies and Classical Hebrew at all levels.

To succeed, applicants will be able to teach and supervise at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and will help coordinate and promote the Biblical Studies program. Applicants will need to be self-driven and capable of working well in a team, and have research potential that is demonstrated by publications and grants. The appointee will also be expected to take part in administrative activities in the Department and serve on School and Faculty committees. Evidence of community involvement and experience teaching adult education will be highly advantageous.

The position is full-time fixed term for six years, subject to the completion of a satisfactory probation period for new appointees. Membership of a University approved superannuation scheme is a condition of employment for new appointees.

Specific enquiries about the role can be directed to Associate Professor Suzanne Rutland, Chair of the Department of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies, on (02) 9351 6662 or email: For information about the Department see

Closing Date: 15 November 2008

For further information and application forms, see here.
Via the SOTS list.
Corban museum a hidden treasure
Little-known site offers a wealth of biblical history

By Ellen Kersey • Special to the Statesman Journal
October 8, 2008

Corban College in southeast Salem houses a little- known museum that comprises a treasure trove of Middle East artifacts — both genuine and replicas.

Prewitt/Allen Archaeological Museum, where 80 percent of the artifacts are genuine, is located above the college library. The museum, said volunteer curator Adrian Jeffers, offers "the largest collection of biblical artifacts on the West Coast north of San Francisco."

MY FATHER'S PARADISE, by Ariel Sabar about his Aramaic-Professor father Yona, is reviewed briefly in the International Herald Tribune. Excerpt:
Yona Beh Sabagha's son is Ariel Sabar, a journalist and now author of what could best be described as a biography of his father that is also part history, linguistics primer and memoir. "My Father's Paradise" is a personal undertaking for a son who admits he never understood his unassuming, penny-pinching immigrant father, a man who spent three decades obsessively cataloging the words of his moribund mother tongue. Sabar once looked at his father with shame, scornful of the alien who still bore scars on his back from childhood bloodlettings. This book, he writes, is a chance to make amends.
HUMANITIES DAY is 25 October at the University of Chicago. Norman Golb will be speaking on the Dead Sea Scrolls:
Was Shakespeare Catholic? Who really authored the Dead Sea Scrolls? How did the Chicago Renaissance differ from the more famous Harlem Renaissance? And what has happened to Iraq’s archaeological heritage since the 2003 sacking of the country’s national museum?


Norman Golb, the Ludwig Rosenberger Professor of Jewish History and Civilization in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations and the College, will examine one of the world’s great archaeological debates. In his lecture, Golb will present the competing theories concerning the provenance of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The roughly 1,000 scrolls, written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek on papyrus or parchment paper, are of enormous religious and historical significance, as they include practically the only known surviving copies of biblical documents made before 100 A.D. One of the world’s leading authorities on the scrolls’ origins, Golb has directed the Oriental Institute’s Dead Sea Scrolls Project since its creation in 1991. Golb will speak from 2 to 3 p.m. in Breasted Hall, 1155 E. 58th St.

There's this too:
Larry Rothfield, Associate Professor in English Language & Literature and the College, and Director of the Cultural Policy Center, will discuss the aftermath of the looting of the Iraq National Museum. Reports of thieves pillaging one of the world’s most important archaeological collections in the wake of the American invasion of April 2003 shocked the world. But what has happened to Iraq’s archaeological heritage since 2003? In “Nobody Thought About Culture,” Rothfield, who edited the recently released collection Antiquities Under Siege: Cultural Heritage Protection after the Iraq War, will discuss what should be done to help Iraq protect what remains of its patrimony. Rothfield also will look broadly at how lessons from Iraq can be used to protect cultural treasures from harm in future conflicts. His talk is scheduled from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. in Harper 130, 1116 E. 59th St.
Background on Golb, e.g., here.
THE ARTSCROLL TALMUD gets a brief notice in the Economist. Excerpt:
Talmud students inevitably wasted time barking up wrong trees or beating paths that had been beaten before. Not any more. The traditional study is radically changing and broadening, thanks to a 20-year-old American-based project nearing completion. “The Art Scroll Talmud” has published all 72 volumes of its English-language Talmud and nearly 60 volumes of a Modern Hebrew version. A French edition is progressing more slowly, and there are plans for a Russian one.
Backgroud here and here.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

HADRIAN'S WALL has secured a large grant:
£4m centre to show off Hadrian’s Wall finds

(The Herald)

Hadrian's Wall and the National Maritime Museum in London have secured £9m funding, which will be used to transform the sites and improve the facilities for visitors.

Hadrian's Wall will use £4m to build an education centre and new galleries for displaying ancient artefacts in Northumberland.

The Vindolanda Trust, the archaeological body in charge of the project, will also release a collection of items which have never been displayed before.


At the centre of the planned display at Vindolanda will be examples of ancient writing tablets described by experts as "Britain's Dead Sea Scrolls".

For more on Hadrian, see here and keep following the links back. For more on Hadrian's Wall and on Vindolanda and the epigraphic discoveries there, see here.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

YOM KIPPUR, the Day of Atonement, begins tonight at sundown. An easy fast to all those observing it.
MY FATHER'S PARADISE, by Ariel Sabar, is reviewed by David Shasha in The American Muslim. Excerpt:
The academic work of Yona Sabar has manifested itself in a book-lengthy study of Kurdish Jewish folklore culled from the many hours of interviews that he did over many years of arduous work and in a dictionary of the language published in 2002. It would not be an understatement to say that Yona Sabar – the hero of his son’s brilliant book – is a monumental figure in the contemporary intellectual history of the Middle Eastern Jews. He has almost single-handedly brought his community’s culture to the public square and has been a tireless champion of its civilization.

It is thus gratifying that after many years of cynicism, apathy and disdain – the standard lament of the contemporary Sephardim – Ariel Sabar has sought to lionize his father by elevating Yona’s often obscure academic work and presenting it in a deftly readable and emotionally rewarding book.

My Father’s Paradise is that rarest of things: A book written out of a sense of pure devotion and love of tradition that serves the average reader with a rich smorgasbord of memorable characters and stories. It will enchant and enlighten the reader at the same time. It is a book that is to be cherished and savored for its wonderful portrayal of a community whose history has been largely forgotten; a community that is part of the natural landscape of our Middle Eastern world.

In a marvelously fluid prose style, Sabar details the history and the culture of a society that is most definitely worth knowing. It is not merely another Middle Eastern Jewish memoir/history that recounts what we already know in a straightforward fashion. It is a work where fragments are indeed made whole.
Background here and here. Cross file under "Aramaic watch."
THE ISRAEL MUSEUM is opening an exhibit of historical documents from all periods pertaining to the history of Israel:
Rare Historical Documents from Israel's Near and Distant Past on Display for First Time


JERUSALEM.- In collaboration with Israel’s State Archives, the Israel Museum presents approximately one hundred original documents from the history of the people and State of Israel, the majority in first-time public display. Organized in celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary, Blue and White Pages: Documenting the History of Israel offers a thematic presentation which commemorates the milestone events of Israel’s statehood through historically key documents, highlighting founding institutions, legal principles and central personalities – displayed alongside ancient artifacts and texts from the Israel Museum’s holdings which resonate meaningfully with their counterparts from modern times.

Blue and White Pages is culled from millions of documents housed in the State Archives’ collection, with the goal of exploring major themes related to the founding of Israel and its national identity. Exhibition highlights include: Israel’s original Declaration of Independence, together with related documents; peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan; and also, in its first public display, the diary of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, which miraculously survived the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster in 2003 and underwent meticulous restoration in the Israel Museum’s laboratories. The exhibition is on view from October 10, 2008, through February 7, 2009.


Echoes of the Past
Integrated throughout the exhibition are artifacts from the Israel Museum's holdings commemorating historic events from ancient times. The letters of Lachish (c. 589 BCE) describe the city under seige before it succumbed to the conquest of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple. A letter from the 2nd century CE, written by Shimon Bar Kochba, the famed leader of the Second Jewish Revolt against Hadrian’s Roman legions, requests the supply of lulavim (palm branches) and etrogim (citrus fruit) for the rebel forces for use in celebrating the Sukkot holiday. These documents stimulate moving echoes between Israel’s ancient and modern histories, giving all the more meaning to the modern state’s existence today on the site of the ancient Land of Israel.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

AN OBITUARY for Avraham Biran, who died last month, appears in the Chicago Tribune. (I know it says NYT, but if it was published there originally, I can't find it online.)
Archeologist of biblical sites

New York Times News Service
October 7, 2008

Avraham Biran, an archeologist of biblical sites who excavated Tel Dan, an ancient city along Israel's northern border, and uncovered an unexpected stone fragment bearing what might be the earliest reference to the House of David, died Sept. 16 in Jerusalem. He was 98.

Biran's death was confirmed by a spokesman from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem, where Biran directed the institute's school of biblical archeology.

In 1993, after nearly three decades of digging at Dan, which is on the Syrian border and near the headwaters of the Jordan River, Biran and his colleagues discovered a foot-long piece of stone with a partial inscription in Early Aramaic.

The archeologists were able to decipher text on what was possibly a monument to commemorate victory in battle by a king of Aram over Israel. The inscription — which contained the words House of David — was dated to the 9th Century B.C. and was hailed by biblical scholars as a unique find and evidence of the antiquity of King David's lineage. Some scholars, however, have questioned the interpretation of the discovery and even the existence of King David.

May his memory be for a blessing.

For more on the Tel Dan Inscription, see here and here.

UPDATE: Here's the link to the NYT article (via Joseph I. Lauer's list).
OH OH! "Monastery atop Church of Holy Sepulchre in danger of collapse" (Haaretz).
The monastery's two chapels and the tiny rooms where its monks live could crumble, injuring the many tourists who visit the site, as well as the monks who live there, and even the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulchre itself.

An engineer who examined the structures recently said the complex was a "danger to human life." As long ago as 2004, before the situation worsened to its present emergency state, the Interior Ministry said it would pay for renovations. However, because of a long-standing dispute between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, whose clergy live at the site, and the Coptic Church, which claims ownership of it, the parties have not managed to reach an agreement that would allow renovations to proceed. The Interior Ministry has made clear to various church officials over the years that it would pay for the work only if the various ownership issues were resolved among the denominations.
This sounds more serious than the occasional fisticuffs match between the denominations that reside there.
THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION at the New York Jewish Museum is reviewed by Edward Rothstein in the New York Times:
Peering Into the Mystery of Those Enigmatic Fragments

Published: October 6, 2008

They are not really scrolls. They are scraps — darkened, cracked fragments of parchment. Yet the faded ink strokes of Aramaic or ancient Hebrew refer to epic incantations: to trumpets blowing in battle, to praise of the righteous and condemnation of the wicked, to “the heavens, the earth and all its thinking creatures.”

Go see these six encased bits of ancient text at the Jewish Museum’s new exhibition, “The Dead Sea Scrolls: Mysteries of the Ancient World,” before it closes on Jan. 4. Go, but not because these scraps are themselves new to our understanding. Though these six “scrolls” have never been seen in New York before, and though three have never before been exhibited anywhere, the literature about these findings has become as voluminous and familiar as the texts are gnomic and condensed.


Go, finally, because there is something rarely felt in exhibitions, and which the critic Walter Benjamin argued was heading toward extinction. In the 1930s he suggested that art objects were now so easily reproduced that they were being stripped of their “aura.” Aura, he suggested, is connected with uniqueness, but it also involves a sense of distance. An object possessing aura stands at a distance from us, no matter how near we get to it.

Here, you can feel the essence of this idea. Even though you can lean over these cases, even though there seems nothing intrinsically remarkable about these bits of parchment, they stand alien and apart; their history and their significance make them seem immeasurably remote.

Yet they are also intimately close to us. Some scholars have speculated that Jesus or John the Baptist could have handled these scrolls; certainly Christianity developed out of their milieu. And their preoccupations with messianism, communal law and textual exegesis foreshadowed the concerns of later Judaism.

I understand the feeling.
But after the 1948 war, Jordan annexed the West Bank, took control of the caves and appointed the Rev. Roland de Vaux of École Biblique et Archéologique Française in East Jerusalem as overseer of an international team of scholars that would publish the scrolls. Then came 40 years in which the scrolls were passed among generations of scholars like esoteric possessions, until the lack of progress was called by the Oxford scholar Geza Vermes “the academic scandal par excellence of the 20th century.”

It is discomfiting, too, to see photographs in which scholars — who pieced together fragments using scotch tape — smoke over them as destructive daylight streams onto tables.

In addition, Jewish scholars were deliberately excluded from de Vaux’s original eight-member team, which was dominated by Roman Catholic priests and scholars. De Vaux later rejected offers by Israelis to help his team and persisted in referring to Israel as Palestine.

In the 1967 war Israel won control over the caves and scrolls, but two decades passed before it asserted any real authority over the project. One of de Vaux’s early appointees, John Strugnell, became head of the team in the 1980s but was dismissed in 1990 after an interview in which he called Judaism a “horrible religion” that “should have disappeared.”

There are valid points here, but I think this is being a little hard on the original team. Anyone who wants to critize them on their slowness should also note that they spent ten years of their lives just piecing together the bits and pieces into manuscripts – with only the handwriting and the quality of the leather to go by. And they are not to be blamed for not using the more rigorous processes for handling of the Scrolls which we have in place today. As for Strugnell, Mr. Rothstein should be ashamed of himself for not noting that Strugnell suffered from bipolar disorder and was in the midst of a severe manic episode when he made those comments. (More on that here.)

UPDATE: Stephen Goranson notes some other problems with the article. (Via Joseph I. Lauer's list.)

Monday, October 06, 2008

A HEBREW INSCRIPTION from the Second Temple period mentioning "the son of the High Priest" has been found near Jerusalem. Here's the IAA press release:
Fragment of a Sarcophagus was Discovered on which is Carved the Inscription: “Ben HaCohen HaGadol”

Just before Yom Kippur – In Excavations along the Security Fence North of Jerusalem a Fragment of a Sarcophagus was Discovered that Dates to the Second Temple Period on which is Carved the Inscription: “Ben HaCohen HaGadol”

Yom Kippur was the only day of the year when the high priest was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple.

A unique discovery was revealed in excavations that were conducted north of Jerusalem: a fragment of a sarcophagus cover was found that is engraved with square Hebrew script, characteristic of the Second Temple period. The fragment (length 0.60 m, width 0.48 m) is made of hard limestone, is meticulously fashioned and bears a carved inscription that reads: “…Ben HaCohen HaGadol…”.

Numerous high priests served in the temple during the latter part of the Second Temple period and there is no way of knowing which of the priests the inscription refers to. However, it should probably be identified with one of the priests that officiated there between the years 30 and 70 CE. Among the high priests we know of from the end of the Second Temple period were Caiaphas the priest, Theophilus (Yedidiya) Ben Hanan, Simon Ben Boethus, Hanan Ben Hanan and others.

The excavations were conducted by the Unit of the Archaeological Staff Officer of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, under the direction of Naftali Aizik and Benyamin Hareven, within the framework of the salvage excavations that are currently being carried out along the route of the security fence and underwritten by the Ministry of Defense.

During the course of the excavation public and residential buildings, agricultural installations, pools and cisterns were discovered which range in date from the end of the Second Temple period to the Early Islamic period.
The Land of Benjamin is known in scientific literature as the place where the priests resided during the Second Temple period. This region is analogous to the peripheral settlements of modern Jerusalem where an affluent population dwelled that was active and earned its living in the central city of Jerusalem. The site that was exposed is an estate of one of the high priests who served in the temple in Jerusalem. One can assume that the son of the high priest passed away for some unknown reason at the time when his father still officiated as the high priest in Jerusalem. It can further be assumed that this high priest, as well as the rest of his family, was interred at the same estate located north of Jerusalem; however, no other artifacts have been found yet that verify this theory. It should be noted that the fragment of the sarcophagus cover was not discovered in the estate itself, rather it was recovered from the debris of the later remains. It seems that the fragment was plundered from its original location approximately one thousand years ago and was used in the construction of a later Moslem building that was erected atop the ruins of the houses from the Second Temple period.

The high priest was first and foremost amongst the priests in the temple but his greatest importance was the role he played on Yom Kippur. This was the only day of the year when the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies. In the Yoma Tractate (Yom Kippur) of the Mishnah the process which the high priest underwent seven days prior to Yom Kippur, before he entered the Holy of Holies, is described in detail. He would walk between the ornamental curtains that separated the hall of the temple and the inner sanctum of the Holy of Holies. Here he would burn the incense about which it was said “…the entire temple filled with the smoke of incense”.

Until the Hellenistic period (the time of Antiochus Epiphanes IV) the high priesthood was a position that was passed on hereditarily; however after this period the high priest was appointed by the ruling authorities. During Herod’s reign individuals who were not Jerusalemites were appointed as high priests and it reached the point whereby the priesthood became an office which was purchased with money.
Follow the link and scroll to the bottom of the page for a zip file with three photographs; one of the site and two of the inscription.

Via Joseph I. Lauer's list.

UPDATE (7 October): In case the link to the article rots, here's the link for downloading the photographs.

UPDATE (9 October): Ed Cook comments at Ralph.
A TRAVEL PIECE ON JORDAN in the Lexington Herald-Leader surveys some of its antiquities:
Jordan's attractions range from archaeological (Roman remains at Jerash) to religious (Wadi Kharrar). They include sublime natural spectacles (Wadi Rum and the Dead and Red seas) and peerless man-made spectacles (the ancient city of Petra).

Jerash, though less famous than the Roman cities of Ephesus in Turkey and Magnus Lepta in Libya, is impressive. Some 30 miles north of the capital of Amman, the ruins, which include avenues, buildings, columns, theaters, villas and mosaics, remain remarkably well-preserved after 2,000 years. Strolling down the Cardo, the main street lined with decorative columns, it is easy to imagine Jerash in all its splendor as a Decapolis, one of 10 cities in the ancient kingdoms of Jordan, Syria and Israel linked by their trade routes, whose importance is referenced in the Bible.

A more important biblical site, however, is Wadi Kharrar, a lonely outpost in the shadow of Jericho in the Palestinian Territories. Wadi Kharrar, on the Jordanian side of the River Jordan, is where John the Baptist baptized his cousin Jesus, according to biblical scholars now supported by archaeological evidence. This is also the spot, according to the Bible, from which the prophet Elijah ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot and returned in spirit to proclaim, "I am a crying voice in the wilderness."

Archaeological excavations begun here in 1996 — after King Hussein brokered a peace accord with Israel — have uncovered a host of late Roman/early Byzantine churches, mosaics, the cave of the hermits and an underground spring.

While the attractions of the capital, Amman, can be seen in a half-day sightseeing tour, there are several must-see spots in the vicinity: Madaba, the city of Mosaics, dating back 3,500 years (the mosaic map of the Holy Land, pieced together with 2.3 million tiles on the floor of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, is the oldest map in the world); and Mount Nebo, on which Moses is said to have stood, forbidden by God to enter the Promised Land. Here, above the windswept plains, a beautiful chapel stands as a memorial to the prophet who lived out his days, died and was buried here.

South of Amman are Jordan's two famous seas — the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on earth (1,300 feet below sea level) with a salt content eight times that of most of the world's oceans, and the Red Sea, known for its casual resort lifestyle and incomparable diving.
And there's Petra too, of course.
CAROL NEWSOM is interviewed in the Daily Citizen, GA:
Stroll through the Scrolls
Misty Watson

After working to translate the Dead Sea Scrolls, Carol Newsom realizes there are some discrepancies in the ancient Jewish texts and Old Testament translations.

But “I’m more impressed with how faithful (texts) have been over 2,000 years,” said Newsom, a Distinguished Professor of Hebrew Bible at Emory University in Atlanta, who spoke at the Dalton First United Methodist Church Sunday evening.

The Dead Sea Scrolls “don’t change anything for (Jewish or Christian) faith,” she said.


From 1978 to 1982, Newsom, now 58, translated and wrote a dissertation on a manuscript dating back to 100 B.C. called “Songs of Sabbath Sacrifice,” which are songs people living in Qumran would sing on the Sabbath. One song was sung on each of 13 Sabbaths, all pertaining to angelic priests and the heavenly temple of God.

Pretty much right, but more complicated than this. But I won't get started.
The Book of Jubilees, believed to have been written by Moses in the second century B.C., closely follows the stories in Genesis, but includes more detail, such as “elaborate poems,” she said.
Perhaps believed by the early audience to have been written by Moses, but not by specialists today, who don't even think that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Obviously that's what Carol meant, and she probably phrased it more clearly than it ended up in the article.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

METATRON WATCH: The Archangel Metatron has diversified into the travel business.
On Tuesday, Oct. 7, SUNY Oswego’s Office of Business and Community Relations and the Women’s Network for Entrepreneurial Training will gather women from across Central New York for “Connections.”


This years’ event is scheduled to have speakers that will energize and inspire women, including SUNY Oswego alumna Melina Carnicelli. Carnicelli is the founder and owner of two businesses - Treble Associates, which specializes in leadership and staff training and Metatron Travel, which offers intimate travel groups to sacred sites around the world.