Saturday, February 21, 2009

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The BBC corrects an error that was brought to their attention by CAMERA. Good for them.

The distinction between the Western or Wailing Wall (which is part of the outer wall of the Herodian Temple platform) and the Temple Mount, on which (somewhere) the Temple actually stood, is a subtle but important one. As the BBC response notes, even Israeli media sometimes get this wrong.
THE PERSEPOLIS CUNEIFORM ARCHIVE CONTROVERSY (i.e., whether the archive should be confiscated by the US Government as compensation for terrorism sponsered by the Iranian Government) is the subject of a long and thorough article in The Herald News, MA.
FOCUS: Terrorism impacting archaeology, 02-22-09
The Herald News
Posted Feb 20, 2009 @ 05:40 PM

CHICAGO — The professor opens a cardboard box and gingerly picks up a few hunks of dried clay — dust-baked relics that offer a glimpse into the long-lost world of the Persian empire that spanned a continent 2,500 years ago.

Matt Stolper has spent decades studying these palm-sized bits of ancient history. Tens of thousands of them. They’re like a jigsaw puzzle. A single piece offers a tantalizing clue. Together, the big picture is scholarly bliss: a window into Persepolis, the capital of the Persian empire looted and burned by Alexander the Great.

The collection — on loan for decades to the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute — is known as the Persepolis Fortification Archive. These are, to put it simply, bureaucratic records. But in their own way, they tell a story of rank and privilege, of deserters and generals, of life in what was once the largest empire on earth.

For Stolper — temporary caretaker of the tablets — these are priceless treasures.
For others, they may one day be payment for a terrible deed.

In an extraordinary battle unfolding slowly in federal court here, several survivors of a suicide bombing in Jerusalem in 1997 sued the government of Iran, accusing it of being complicit in the attack. They won a $412 million default judgment from a judge in Washington, D.C., and when their lawyer began looking for places to collect, he turned to the past.

This is an excellent account that gives a sympathetic and (as far as I can tell) accurate presentation of both sides of this heartrending controversy, with full attention to the evil actions of Hamas and the Iranian regime, the horrendous suffering of the terrorism victims, the immense historical importance of the archive, and the worrisome implications of using it for compensation. It's hard to excerpt, but here's the conclusion:
No one knows how much the tablets (there are 10,000 to 12,000 useful pieces) would fetch on the open market. Some academics believe it would be a mere fraction of the enormous judgments; others think no institution would even bid on them considering the legal tug-of-war.
Strachman, however, maintains he has been contacted by interested museums who want to expand their collections. He says he has no intention of trying to sell them commercially — something he says would be “absolutely inappropriate.”

He has sued the Field Museum in Chicago, too, as well as the Harvard museums and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for other Persian artifacts. In those cases, lawyers deny the items belong to the government of Iran.

Strachman also is seeking a list of all Iranian assets in the United States.

As this case works its way through the courts, Stein, head of the Oriental Institute, worries about broader implications.

“If we open up the Pandora’s box ... and sell other countries’ cultural property, how long before they do the same to us?” he asks. “It would have a deadly, chilling effect on any kinds of cultural exchanges in the future.”

Gerstenblith, the DePaul professor, agrees. The bombing survivors clearly deserve compensation, she says, adding that she wouldn’t object if land or bank assets were at stake. “Money is money,” she says. “But cultural objects are completely different.”

Seven decades after these ancient records arrived by ship, a very modern-day debate over terrorism now leaves them in a legal limbo. It may take years more before their fate — and their home — is finally determined.

“I think and have to hope that common sense is going to prevail,” Stein says. “They ultimately are the property of the people of Iran and they belong back there.”
It is a relief to hear at least that one set of plaintiffs have no intention of selling the tablets to private collectors, although if they win the case, I doubt that they would be required to stand by that, and as the article notes, museums may hold off from getting involved in the controversy. But even these plaintiffs do not promise not to break up the collection. And the article notes that the lawyer for another set of plaintiffs has made this menacing statement:
Another lawyer is trying to seize the Persepolis collection and other Iranian assets to compensate more than 150 families of 241 U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing of a Marines barracks in Beirut in 1983.

The families hope to collect a $2.6 billion default judgment against Iran, which has been blamed for supporting the militant group, Hezbollah, believed responsible for the Beirut attack. A special measure passed in Congress last year made it easier for families to receive compensation.

“If Iran wants to protect these things ... they’re going to have to do something to pay their judgments,” says Thomas Fortune Fay, the lawyer. “Maybe they’ll all end up on coffee tables around the country.”
I think this demonstrates that the precedent of seizing antiquities as compensation would be exceedingly unfortunate and could well be exploited by people such as Mr. Fay, who have no scruples against breaking up and selling such collections to private collectors.

Read it all.

Background here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

MOTHER OF GOD: A History of the Virgin Mary, by Miri Rubin, is reviewed by Christopher Howse in the Daily Telegraph. Excerpt:
Miri Rubin, a professor of medieval history at Queen Mary, University of London, does not adopt a devotional tone in her learned book. In 500 pages she teases out strands of opinion and conviction about Mary’s place in Christianity – and beyond. In a section on Mary in Islam, she examines the teaching of the Koran, where Jesus, a prophet, is born to Mary, a virgin, whose pregnancy is announced by an angel.


Miri Rubin deals with anti-Semitic statements among early Christians too. These are less often to do with supposed deicide as with Jewish rejection of the idea that Jesus could be God. Her discussion of this thread of polemical exchange gains force from its calm objectivity.

Jews who “derided” the Christian idea of Mary did so because they knew the greatness – or enormity – of their claims: that almighty God, the transcendent creator, had been born as a little baby. Pagans, by contrast, on first hearing of Christianity might have mistaken Jesus for just another god, perhaps as godly as Dionysus in Euripides’ Bacchae. That, no doubt, is why, in her early chapters Rubin, annoyingly for some readers, consistently refers to Jesus as “a god”.
Background here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

MORE ON THE VALMADONNA LIBRARY, which is currently in exhibition by Sotheby's. The Forward tells more about how it was collected:
Collecting “Val,” as Lunzer refers to the library, has been a passion so forceful that he describes it as lunacy. “Lunacy is this,” he said, “spending $2,500 going to look at a book that costs only $300.”


The story of his collection began in 1948 after he married his late wife Ruth, who was from a Milanese-Jewish family. Her father had hidden a small trove of 16th century Hebrew books from around Italy in his basement when he and his family fled to Switzerland during the Holocaust. After the books were retrieved, her brothers asked him to take care of them.

At first, he tried to refuse, Lunzer said in an interview with the Forward at his New York hotel. But as the newlyweds traveled through Italy, visiting villages that “were magical,” he realized that many of those places had Jewish history and the books reflected that history. “I saw in the books the whole drama of Hebrew printing, with all of its implications, social and political.”

The idea entranced him, and started him on his path.


Lunzer’s greatest collecting conquest was the Bomberg Babylonian Talmud, printed in 1520 under Papal privilege. It is the first complete Talmud ever printed — becoming all the more rare because on Rosh Hashanah 1553, the Vatican ordered the burning of copies of the Talmud that had been confiscated by the Inquisition. More Church destructions of the Talmud followed.

He persuaded Westminster Abbey to part with it, which was no mean feat.

Background here.
THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION from the Royal Ontario Museum goes to California in March:

Cantor Arts Center, 328 Lomita Drive, Stanford
California, USA

18 March – 16 August 2009

An exhibition of unparalleled significance, Dead Sea Scrolls showcases one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century.


Created by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Royal Ontario Museum, Dead Sea Scrolls unearths the intriguing tale of their discovery, examines the environment in which they were found and explores the science and technology which helped to decipher them.

Background here.

UPDATE AND CORRECTION: The curator of the Ontario exibition, Dr. Risa Levitt Kohn, e-mails:
Hi there,
I am afraid you got this one wrong:
THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION from the Royal Ontario Museum goes to California in March:
There are no plans for this show to travel and in will be in Toronto from June 27, 2009 through Jan 4, 2010.
Okay. It appears that the linked announcement is either erroneous or its meaning is impenetrable, at least to me. Thanks for the correction.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

THE LAMED VOVNIKS (36 Righteous), who appeared in The Book of Names a couple of years ago, make another fictional appearance in a book of stories reviewed in BlogCritics Magazine by Lynda Lippin. Excerpt:
While we do see some back and forth discussions in the Torah, especially in the story of Sodom and Gemorah where Abraham tries to save the cities by bargaining with G-d. While G-d starts out requiring proof of 50 good people to save the cities, Abraham manages to get the number down to 10. Now, we know that there were not even 10 as the cities were destroyed. In the Talmud there is a similar discussion about the number of good righteous people who must exist at any given time in order to keep the entire world existing, and the number is 36.


The Book of the Unknown is a tale within a tale, opening with a fictional forward by a Professor Jay Katz and closing with a fictional Editor's Note. Professor Katz tells the sory about finding old papers in a German synagogue that was discovered unscathed after the Holocaust, and in the papers discovering a list of 36 names, a list of the 36. Instead of turning the list over to authorities he keeps it and starts to visit the neighboring villages asking about the names on the list, discovering that they all fit the description of the Lamed-Vov. According to the Editor's Note, after publishing some of the stories he mysteriously disappears along with his papers and the list of the 36.
Background here, here, and here.

UPDATE (19 February): Reader Joe5348 e-mails:
The best book using the background of the lamed vov is "Last of the Just" by Andre Schwartz-Bart. It came out, I believe, in 1960 and won about every literary award around. I read the English traslation by, again I believe, Steven Becker.
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS is interested in buying the Valmadonna Library, now on display in New York by Sotheby's -- if they can find a donor:
The U.S. Library of Congress is among those institutions that have expressed interest in housing the library -- if a wealthy donor or consortium can be found to make the purchase, according to David Redden, Sotheby’s vice chairman.

“We’ve been interested in this collection for a considerable time,” said Dr. James Billington, U.S. Librarian of Congress, in a telephone interview. “It would find a great home here.”

However, Billington added, “We don’t remotely have those resources.”
If any PaleoJudaica readers or their friends happen to have $40 million available for a philanthropic project, here's your chance.

Also, The Forward has a brief article on the Library exhibit:
Celebrated Collection of Hebrew Texts on View, on Sale
By Sarah Kessler
Published February 18, 2009, issue of February 18, 2009.

Jack Lunzer, whose private collection of more than 11,000 Hebrew books and manuscripts is on display at the New York auction house Sotheby’s until February 19, has a line he often repeats: “When two or three Jews get together, they buy a printing press.”

The Valmadonna Trust Library, which is valued at more than $40 million and will be sold as a complete collection by Sotheby’s in a private sale, is a testament to the People of the Book’s drive to write. Bound pages from four continents, and almost 1,000 years of the printed Hebrew word line shelves from floor to skylight in the auction house’s 10th-floor exhibition space.

Background here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

PROFESSOR JAMES KUGEL will be lecturing tomorrow at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.
The Ben Zion and Baruch M. Bokser Memorial Lecture:
"Can the Torah Make Its Peace With Modern Biblical Scholarship?"

For Immediate Release

Press Contact: Sherry Kirschenbaum
Office: (212) 678-8953
January 21, 2009, New York, NY

Dr. James L. Kugel, director of the Institute for the History of the Jewish Bible at Bar-Ilan University and noted author of How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now, will discuss the topic, “Can the Torah Make Its Peace With Modern Biblical Scholarship?” at the Ben Zion and Baruch M. Bokser Memorial Lecture at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 18.

Via Joseph I. Lauer's list.
MORE DELAY in the court case over the land dispute involving the Syriac Mor Gabriel Monastery in Turkey:
Turkey Delays Assyrian Monastery Trial For the Third Time
Posted GMT 2-17-2009 2:22:4

(AINA) -- For the third time Turkey has rescheduled the hearing for the different cases regarding the land dispute of St. Gabriel Monastery. The new hearing is set for March 4. International attention increased after the state escalated the issue (AINA 2-6-2009). The hearing on February 11 was supposed to address various issues including the issue of a wall the monastery built and whether the 270 hectares that were confiscated by the government belong to the monastery. Also the new claims raised in January by the Treasury to confiscate additional 130 hectares were planned to be adjudicated.

Background here.
MORE ARTICLES have been posted on the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures website:
Dear all,

I am glad to announce that the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures ( has recently published a set of articles on Jonah. The editor of the set is Philippe Guillaume

New Articles:
* Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 9: Article 3 (2009)
Philippe Guillaume, “Arguing under the Qiqayon: An Introduction to a Set of Articles on Jonah.”
As per title, an introduction to the following six articles that deal with the Book of Jonah. All but the final essay in the series reflect issues hotly debated at the conference of the European Association of Biblical Studies at Lisbon in August 2008. The final essay (article 9 in this volume of JHS) is based on a paper presented at the Society of Biblical Literature conference at Boston in November 2008.

To access this article directly please go to

* Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 9: Article 4 (2009)
Thomas M. Bolin, “Eternal Delight and Deliciousness: The Book of Jonah After Ten Years.”
The first part of this article reviews significant scholarly contributions on the Book of Jonah for the last ten years. Looking specifically at the work of Serge Frolov, Yvonne Sherwood, Ehud Ben Zvi, Lowell Handy and T.A. Perry demonstrates that exegesis of Jonah has entered a very fruitful period, free of the anti-Jewish biases characteristic of earlier readings and armed with more information about post-exilic Judah than ever before. Next, the article looks at God’s reference to the animals in Jon 4:11 and reads it as an expression of God’s desire for the newly submissive Ninevites to offer sacrifice to him, as the sailors do in 1:16 and Jonah vows in 2:10. Thus God is portrayed, like many ancient Near Eastern potentates, as extending his rule over peoples and exacting tribute.

To access this article directly please go to

* Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 9: Article 5 (2009)
Ehud Ben Zvi, “Jonah 4:11 and the Metaprophetic Character of the Book of Jonah 9.”
The present study reaffirms the double ending, and above all, double reading of the book of Jonah. This double reading contributed much to the metaprophetic character of the book of Jonah, by which I mean, a book that—within the discourse of the relevant historical literati—provided a key for, and reflected an understanding of prophetic literature.

To access this article directly please go to

* Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 9: Article 6 (2009)
Philippe Guillaume, “Rhetorical Reading Redundant: A Response to Ehud Ben Zvi.”
Ehud Ben Zvi's claim, in the preceding article, that the final verse of Jonah must be read both as a question and an affirmation is welcomed. Yet, it is argued here that reading a rhetorical question contributes little to the metaprophetic character of Jonah. In fact, a final rhetorical question destroys the open-endedness of the book while YHWH's unambiguous affirmation that he will show no pity for Nineveh faces readers with a deeper meaning of prophecy. Like the Elohim in chapter 3, Jonah in chapter 4 is invited to come out of the circle of anger. Destructions and reversals of fortune occur, but humans are not privy to the divine council.

To access this article directly please go to

* Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 9: Article 7 (2009)

Jakob Wöhrle, “A Prophetic Reflection on Divine Forgiveness: The Integration of the Book of Jonah into the Book of the Twelve.”


It has often been recognized that the book of Jonah as well as several other passages in the Book of the Twelve are influenced by the so called "grace formula" ("Gnadenformel") from Exod 34:6-7 (Joel 2:12-14; Jon 3:9; 4:2; Mic 7:18-20; Nah 1:2b, 3a; Mal 1:9a). But up to now the redactional relationship of these passages and their intention in the context of the book of the Twelve have only been defined inadequately. The article shows that the redaction responsible for the final redactional stage of the book of Jonah and for the integration of this book into the book of the Twelve, is also responsible for Joel 2:12-14; Mic 7:18-20; Nah 1:2b, 3a; Mal 1:9a. Because of this redaction the Book of the Twelve can be read as a reflection on the conditions, the theological reasons and the limits of divine forgiveness.

To access this article directly please go to

* Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 9: Article 8 (2009)

Klaas Spronk, “Jonah, Nahum, and the Book of the Twelve: A Response to Jakob Wöhrle.”


In discussion with Wöhrle's analysis in the previous article of this set, it is maintained that both the book of Jonah and the book of Nahum should be read as a unit. The book of Jonah was probably written as a reaction to the negative view on foreign peoples found in Joel 4:2. The writer of the book of Jonah builds his case upon the authoritative text from Exodus 34. Both in terms of form and content, he is also inspired by the book of Nahum. Therefore, the repeated use of Exodus 34:6-7 in these texts needs not be ascribed to a separate layer, but is probably part of a process of one book reacting to the other.

To access this article directly please go to

* Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 9: Article 9 (2009)

Daniel Timmer, “The Intertextual Israelite Jonah Face À L’empire:
The Post-Colonial Significance of The Book’s Cotexts and Purported Neo-Assyrian Context.”


Jonah's use of various antecedent HB texts and its purported Neo-Assyrian setting are prominent hermeneutical signposts that are integral to the book. Until now, however, the former question has not received sustained attention and the latter has been obscured by disagreement over the book's historical veracity. This paper broadens the scope of postcolonialist discussion by considering empire through the Israelite perspective that Jonah affords and through the Neo-Assyrian literature dealing with its conquest of nation-states in the first half of the first millennium BCE. Special attention is given to how Jonah the prophet and Jonah the book attribute different identities to the different groups that appear in the book and to the book's intertextual connections to other parts of the Hebrew Bible. The paper closes by reflecting on ways that different means of identification entail different responses to power.

To access this article directly please go to


New Reviews:

Ernst Axel Knauf, Josua (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag, 2008).Reviewed by Philippe Guillaume.

To access JHS reviews please go to

Please share your comments about the new beta-hypertext version of all the articles and reviews published in the journal from volume 1 to volume 7 (2007) if you find mistakes please contact Karl Anvik at (with a cc to me).

The printed publication of volume 7 (2007) of the Journal by Gorgias Press has been published. For more information please go to
At that page you will find links to the printed versions of vols 1-6 of the Journal.

For information about the Logos version of the Journal (vols. 1-7), please go to


Ehud Ben Zvi
History and Classics
University of Alberta
2-28 HM Tory Building
Edmonton AB Canada T6G 2H4
MORE SBL INFO: My colleague Professor Kristin De Troyer sends the programs for the sessions on the Hebrew Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls at the international meeting this summer:
The Hebrew Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls
International Meeting of the SBL, Rome, June 30th-July 4th 2009
Organized by Armin Lange (University of Vienna) and Kristin De Troyer (University of St. Andrews)

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Textual History of the Hebrew Bible
Emanuel Tov (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Textual History of the Masoretic Text
Kristin De Troyer (University of St. Andrews): Looking at Bathsheba with Text Critial Eyes
Julio Trebolle Barrera (Universidad Complutense de Madrid): The History of the Biblical Text: Implications for Other Fields of Study
Chelica Hiltunen (University of Oxford), An Examination of the Supposed pre-Samaritan Texts from Qumran
Panel discussion
Russ Fuller (University of San Diego)
Arie van der Kooij (Leiden University)
Eugene Ulrich (University of Notre Dame)

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Understanding of Biblical Books I
Steven Fassberg (Hebrew University of Jerusalem): The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Language of Jewish Scriptures
Michaela Bauks (University of Koblenz-Landau): Knowledge, Nakedness, Shame, and Eternal Life in the Primeval History of the Hebrew Bible and in Selected Texts from the Qumran Library
Karin Finsterbusch (University of Koblenz-Landau): The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Deutoronomistic School
Eckart Otto (Ludwig-Maximilians Universität Munich): Did the Temple Scroll Substitute or Supplement the Torah?
Esther Chazon (Hebrew University of Jerusalem): Looking Back: What the Dead Sea Scrolls can Teach us about Biblical Prayer
Mika Pajunen (University of Helsinki): The Textual Connection between 4Q380 Fragment 1 and Psalm 106

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Understanding of Biblical Books II
Armin Lange (University of Vienna): “When You Die Your Remembrance Will Flower Forever” (4Q416 2 iii 7): Qohelet 1:11 in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls
John Collins (Yale University): The Book Daniel in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls, commited
Bennie H. Reynolds (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill): Symbolic and Non-Symbolic Visions of the Book of Daniel in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Panel discussion
Ida Fröhlich (Pazmany Petr University)
Thomas Römer (University of Lausanne)
Raija Sollamo (University of Helsinki)

Ancient Interpretations of Jewish Scriptures in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Michael Segal (Hebrew University of Jerusalem): Forms and Techniques in Rewritten Biblical Texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls
Matthias Weigold (University of Vienna): Jewish Commentaries in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Sarah Pearce (University of Southampton): The Interpretation of Jewish Scripture in Philo and the Dead Sea Scrolls: a Comparative Perspective
Sarianna Metso (University of Toronto), The Reception of Leviticus in the Dead Sea Scrolls
Panel discussion
Esther Eshel (Bar Ilan University)
Florentino Garcia Martinez (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven)
Zlatko Plese (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Living Jewish Law in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Larry Schiffman (New York University): The Temple Scroll and the Torah
Vered Noam (Tel Aviv University): Expounding the Torah in the DSS and Rabbinic Literature
Christof Batsch (Séminaire Qoumrân de Paris et Université Lille 3): Legal vocabulary at Qumran
Marcus Tso (Carey Theological College), The Use of Scriptural Traditions at Qumran for the Construction
Panel discussion
Philip Alexander (University of Manchester)
Lutz Doering (King's College - Lon)
Alexander Samely (University of Manchester)

Ancient Jewish History in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Hanan Eshel (Bar Ilan University), New Discoveries on the Bar Kokhba Revolt from Refuge Caves in the Judean Desert
Jutta Jokiranta (University of Helsinki), The Sociology of Jewish Life in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Cecilia Wassen (Uppsala University), The Dead Sea Scrolls on Jewish Women
Panel discussion
Lester Grabbe (University of Hull)
Tal Ilan (Freie Universität Berlin)
Jodi Magness (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

The Dead Sea Scrolls and Ancient Judaism
Henryk Drawnel (The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin), The Initial Narrative of the Visions of Amram and its Literary Characteristics
Paul Heger (University of Toronto), 1 Enoch – Complementary of Alternative to Mosaic Torah?
Hanna Tervanotko (University of Helsinki / University of Vienna), ”You Shall See” Rebecca’s Farewell Address in 4Q364 3 II, 1-6
Hanne von Weissenberg (University of Helsinki), The Book of the Twelve at Qumran and the Canonical Process
There's more information on the SBL international meeting here.
MORE OF THE HELIODORUS INSCRIPTION has been recovered. From the IAA press release:
New Inscriptions found at Beit Guvrin- Maresha National Park Reveal more information

New Inscriptions found at Beit Guvrin- Maresha National Park
Reveal more information on a Royal Stele at the Israel Museum

The inscriptions, found by Dr. Ian Stern of "Archeological Seminars" at an Israel Antiquities Authority excavation, relates to the Maccabean revolt

A royal Greek inscription- "The Heliodoros stele"- consisting of 23 lines inscribed on limestone, was exhibited at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, two years ago, on extended loan from Michael and Judy Steinhardt, New York. It is considered one of the most important ancient inscriptions found in Israel. Recently, three smaller fragments of a Greek inscription were found at an Israel Antiquities Authority excavation at Maresha, located inside the National Park of Beit Guvrin, under the supervision of Dr. Ian Stern and Bernie Alpert. Dr. Dov Gera, who studied the inscriptions shown to him by Dr. Stern, determined that the fragments were actually the lower portion of "The Heliodoros stele". This discovery confirmed the assumption that the stele originally stood in one of the temples in Maresha- Beit Guvrin National Park today. The new fragments were discovered in a subterranean complex by participants in the Archaeological Seminars Institute's "Dig for a Day" program.

The article also has a couple of good downloadable photos (zip file).

Background here.

(Via Joseph I. Lauer's list.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

THE SBL HELLENISTIC JUDAISM SECTION has a call for papers for the November 2009 meeting and Annette Reed has e-mailed to ask colleagues to alert anyone who might be interested in presenting. Deadline for submission on the Society of Biblical Literature website is 28 February. Consider yourselves alerted!
SBL Hellenistic Judaism
Call for Papers, 2009 SBL Annual Meeting

This year, the Hellenistic Judaism Section will be dedicating 1-2 sessions to the late antique, medieval, and modern reception-histories of Hellenistic Judaism. We invite proposals for papers that speak to the reception of the Hellenistic Jewish figures, ideas, narratives, and texts -- as well as to the prehistory and formation of the very notion of "Hellenistic Judaism." We especially encourage submissions that speak to the appropriation and redeployment of these materials for the articulation of cultural and religious identities, past and present. Through a focus on reception, we hope to explore the afterlives of these materials in historiography, ethnography, translation, etc. Papers on other topics related to Hellenistic Judaism are also welcome.
ARE DEMON SIGHTINGS the result of eye disease or artificially induced equivalents? At Omphalos, Aharon Varady asks,
Could Raba’s magic recipe for perceiving demons by placing ash in one’s eye create a condition like Charles Bonnet Syndrome? Could Rav Huna’s 10:1 ratio of ubiquitous albeit invisible demons indicate a left-brained dominance when perceiving/hallucinating these creatures? Curious minds wish to know the answer to these arcane questions.
Doesn't sound terribly compelling to me - I'm not sure why ashes in the eye would simulate macular degeneration - but I suppose it's possible. Anyhow, an interesting and entertaining post.

(Via Boing Boing as pointed out to me by Michael Lyons.)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

CELEBRATIONS ARE PLANNED to mark the four hundredth anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible:
By his Maiesties speciall commandement
There will be hosannas and great rejoicing for the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible

Michael Binyon (Times of London)

For almost 400 years its words have rung out across pulpits the length and breadth of the country. Its phrases have been on the lips of millions, its cadences the music of English literature. Few translations have been as felicitous, few books as influential.

The Authorised Version of the Bible, known also in America as the King James Version, is arguably one of the greatest works ever published in this country. And a committee has just been set up to ensure that its quatercentenary in 2011 is celebrated with rejoicing, gusto and a host of national commemorations.

MORE ON THE DEAD SEA SCROLL FRAGMENTS for sale in at a antiquarian book fair in San Francisco (San Francisco Chronicle):
George Houle, a seller from Los Angeles who is offering the Disney will and the Hepburn passport, said there's still a strong market - especially for high-end items. (Several booths were selling items for well under $100.)

That includes veteran bookseller Michael R. Thompson's three postage stamp-size pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls, one of the higher-priced items at the fair, ranging from $135,000 to $275,000. The dark and leathery fragments, which date from between 50 B.C. and A.D. 68, were found in a cave on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea in the Middle East. Encased in coaster-size pieces of glass, they're shaped like the state of Missouri, a rooster and a Chicken McNugget.

When asked to see the pieces, Thompson reveals that he's been holding the coveted religious documents in his jacket pocket.

"You put it in a big fancy case, and it pretty much screams out that 'This is worth something,' " said Thompson, figuring the items would be harder to steal when they're close to his chest.
Background here. This is the first I've heard of a third fragment. I have been assured that the two earlier mentioned fragments are being studied by scholars and will be published. I can't say any more right now.