Saturday, March 13, 2010

St. Paul DSS exhibition opened on Friday

NOW OPEN - The Dead Sea Scrolls: Words That Changed the World Exhibition at the Science Museum of Minnesota

ST. PAUL, Minn., March 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Science Museum of Minnesota has opened the long-awaited landmark exhibition of The Dead Sea Scrolls: Words That Changed the World today -- Friday, March 12, 2010. This exhibition offers visitors an exclusive chance to explore the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century -- one that has great historic and personal meaning to people all over the world. It will run through October 24, 2010

Background here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Conference: Between Contact and Contrast: Jews and Christians in the Sasanian Empire

CONFERENCE: Between Contact and Contrast: Jews and Christians in the
Sasanian Empire. 17 - 18 March 2010, SH 1 / 187, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany.
This workshop explores the contacts between Persian Christianity and Babylonian Jewry in the Sasanian Era, aiming to promote greater cooperation between these fields, and further interest in the value of comparison between these two ancient communities. In Sasanian Babylonia Jews and Christians shared both geographical space and a biblical lexicon. Both communities could refer to themselves as the “captivity”, seek out the biblical geography of the region, and perceive of their rulers as either “a second Cyrus” or as Nebuchadnezzar. They both also had to reckon with similar issues, be it an uncertain relationship with Zoroastrianism, interreligious and intercultural influences, or their relationship with the “west”:
Palestine for the Jews; the Roman Empire - and particularly Antioch, for the Christians. Each inherited a canonical literary corpus from its western counterpart, but then proceeded towards a sense of independence and creativity, asserting equality, and even superiority. Each religious community indeed responded to the vicissitudes of the period, and in the course of the centuries of Sasanian rule, carved a unique and distinctive path, creating an extensive religious literature. This workshop, viewing the rich potential for comparison, seeks to probe the processes and dynamics of religious contact and exchange in the Sasanian empire.
The conference flier can be downloaded as a pdf file from here.

Via the H-Judaic list.

Book review: The Dead Sea Scrolls. A Full History. Vol. 1

BOOK REVIEW: The Dead Sea Scrolls. A Full History. Vol. 1 by Weston W. FIELDS. 25 x 17,5; 592 pp. Leiden/Boston, Brill, 2009. — Hardback. ISBN 978-90-04-17581-5.

Reviewed by Jerome Murphy-O’Connor here (downloads as a Word document).

A very thorough review of an extraordinary book.

Via the Agade list.

Azusa Pacific DSS fragments go on display in May


Dead Sea Scroll Fragments and Biblical Artifacts on Exhibit at Azusa Pacific

Share in one of the greatest archeological discoveries of the 20th century as Azusa Pacific University hosts an exhibition featuring five fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls and a collection of rare biblical artifacts from May 21–July 18. Tickets are currently on sale at
Background here.

The Forward on the Israel Heritage Plan

THE FORWARD on the Israel Heritage Plan:
Whose History?

Published March 10, 2010, issue of March 19, 2010.

The diagnosis is correct. The prescription is troubling. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is wise to be concerned about the weakening Jewish identity of many Israelis, an issue for Jews everywhere but especially poignant in what is supposed to be the national homeland. The powerful collective identity forged during the early years of Israel’s modern existence has given way to a splintered sense of self, particularly among the young.

But his proposed national heritage project, aimed at preserving Jewish artifacts and teaching schoolchildren about Jewish and Zionist history, is a flawed response. Estimated to cost the equivalent of $100 million, the project has been duly criticized for including sites in the disputed cities of Bethlehem and Hebron. There’s a deeper concern, however.

The thrust of the project appears to be in telling only one narrative, the Jewish one, as if no other kinds of people ever lived on the land. A quick trip to any archaeological site will counter that notion.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Interview with Dr. Irving Finkel

DR. IRVING FINKEL, Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian Inscriptions at the British Museum, is interviewed in Jewish Ideas Daily:
But for the Grace of Babylon
A British Museum scholar offers a Darwinian explanation for Judaism's survival.

Interviewer: Elliot Jager

On the way to work from his home in south London, Dr. Irving Finkel often finds himself sitting on a bus reading the Hebrew Bible while surrounded by black church ladies studying their Bibles. "If they only knew what I was thinking," he muses.

Unlike his fellow passengers, what the Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian Inscriptions at the British Museum is thinking is that the Bible is not the literal word of God, but that it was crystallized during the sixth-century B.C.E. Babylonian exile by a displaced people from Judea who had lost their country, whose deity was invisible, abstract, and unforgiving, and whose monotheism had gone wobbly. Their decision to create "scripture," something that had never before been attempted, saved the refugees' civilization and enshrined their religious identity. The result was Judaism.

Finkel outlined his thesis in a late-February talk at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Jerusalem entitled "New Light on the Babylonian Exile." He is in the midst of writing a book on the subject, and an American literary agent stands ready to help place it.

Good interview. More on Dr. Finkel here, here, and here.

Richard Bauckham has a new website

RICHARD BAUCKHAM has a new website.

Book review (H-Judaic): Collins & Collins, King and Messiah as Son of God

BOOK REVIEW: Gerbern Oegema. Review of Collins, Adela Yarbro; Collins, John Joseph, King and Messiah as Son of God: Divine, Human, and Angelic Messianic Figures in Biblical and Related Literature. H-Judaic, H-Net Reviews. March, 2010.

This is a fine work with a clear thesis: the term "son of God" must be seen in its historical context as the constantly changing expressions of the books of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, both in the way that they develop throughout history and in the ways that they pick up biblical and ancient tradition, and transform and further develop them in new concepts and beliefs. Both authors complement each other and work with a solid knowledge base. They lead us through the texts with their always careful and sound judgment. They finally underline that we have only partial textual evidence of the possible trajectories of a "son of God" concept and that we must always adapt our reconstructions to this.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More on the St. Paul DSS exhibition

Dead Sea Scrolls come to St. Paul
The ancient scrolls will be exhibited at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

Published: 03/09/2010 (
By Kyle Potter

Tweezers and scissors sat within reach of latex glove-clad hands. Rubber suction handles sat attached to a Plexiglass case.

When dealing with ancient artifacts like the Dead Sea Scrolls, a single slip of the hand could destroy 2,000 years of history.

For the first time, some of these revered documents will be open for Minnesotans to view at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul. Drawing on a University of Minnesota professor for help, the exhibit will open this Friday.

Background here.

More illicit excavation on the Temple Mount?

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: More destructive, illicit excavation? Arutz Sheva reports the following from The Committee for the Prevention of Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount:
According to the Committee, a bulldozer was seen recently on the Temple Mount dumping huge amounts of earth and artifacts extracted from underneath the mount into a large truck for disposal.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

In defense of Israel's Heritage Plan (JTA)

IN DEFENSE of Israel's Heritage Plan:
Op-Ed: In defense of Jewish heritage

By Danny Danon · March 8, 2010

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Imagine if someone forbade you from seeing your loved ones or banned you from visiting the graves of your grandparents. Imagine they told you that you have no right to come to your family home and your identity was simply a figment of your imagination.

Israelis deal with claims like these as a nation each and every day -- constant charges that the Jewish people have no right to their ancient homeland.

A new wave of Palestinian rage was unleashed recently following the inclusion of Judaism’s second holiest shrine, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and the tomb of our matriarch Rachel in Bethlehem on the new list of national heritage sites. It is important to note that the list will serve as a budgetary directive to governmental agencies to ensure that these religious and historical sites receive the appropriate funding for their proper upkeep, not as any sort of political statement.

Background here and follow the links.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Review of Sin: A History

SIN: A HISTORY, by Gary Anderson, is reviewed by Walter Brueggemann in The Christian Century:
Sin: A History

reviewed by Walter Brueggemann

Sin: A History
by Gary A. Anderson
Yale University Press, 272 pp., $30.00
Anderson suggests how the Anselm tradition might be recovered in ways that are socially alert and systemically demanding.

Gary Anderson, professor of Old Testament at the University of Notre Dame, has written an astonishing book that, in ways typical of his work, moves from close textual reading to the widest vistas of interpretation. As usual, he exhibits uncommon erudition, careful method and disciplined imagination that evokes connections his readers surely would not have otherwise noticed. The general idea of the book is that "sin has a history"—that over time understandings of sin reflected in the Bible and in nonbiblical literature changed in dramatic and significant ways.

Anderson identifies three ways of speaking of sin in the Bible—as stain, as burden and as debt. He scarcely mentions stain (only in his introduction), and he handles burden in one brief chapter, so the focus of his compelling study is on sin as debt. He judges that the transfer of interpretive energy from burden to debt can be traced chronologically, with burden evident in the earlier materials and debt becoming dominant in the Second Temple period and exercising immense influence on rabbinic and early Christian interpretation.

He suggests, in too offhand a way, that the change from burden to debt happened because of the move from Hebrew to Aramaic, and that the vocabulary for sin in Aramaic tilted in the direction of economic imagery. Anderson is a most capable scholar of linguistics, but I find his explanation of the change less than persuasive. Whatever may have been the cause of the transfer from one meaning to another, however, his attention to a mass of detailed texts makes clear that meaning does shift in exactly the way he reports.


Is Khirbet Qeiyafa biblical Neta'im"?

ANOTHER IDENTIFICATION of the site of Khirbet Qeiyafa:
Khirbet Qeiyafa is Identified as Biblical "Neta'im"

Released: 3/4/2010 8:30 AM EST
Source: University of Haifa

Newswise — Has another mystery in the history of Israel been solved? Prof. Gershon Galil of the Department of Bible Studies at the University of Haifa has identified Khirbet Qeiyafa as "Neta'im", which is mentioned in the book of Chronicles. "The inhabitants of Neta'im were potters who worked in the king's service and inhabited an important administrative center near the border with the Philistines," explains Prof. Galil.

Khirbet Qeiyafa is a provincial town in the Elah Valley region. Archaeological excavations carried out at Khirbet Qeiyafa by a team headed by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel and Mr. Saar Ganor have dated the site to the beginning of the 10th century BCE, namely the time of King David's rule. A Hebrew inscription on a pottery shard found at the site, also dating back to the 10th century, has recently been deciphered by Prof. Galil and indicates the presence of scribes and a high level of culture in the town.

For discussions of other suggested identifications of the site, go here and here. For the inscription, go here and just keep following the links back. For Professor Galili's highly debatable decipherment, see the latter link and follow the first few links back.

The Lemba and their Jewish DNA

THE LEMBA and their Jewish DNA get some attention in Haaretz:
Report: DNA tests support Zimbabwe tribe's claim of Jewish roots

By Haaretz Service

British scientists have succeeded in proving the Lemba tribe of Zimbabwe and South Africa descended from Jewish ancestors, according to a report by the BBC.

According to the report, the scientists conducted DNA tests on a large sample of the Lemba people, which confirmed Semitic origins dating back more than two millennia.

Inevitably, Professor Tudor Parfitt is quoted.

This is an old story, which I noted back in 2003. For more on the Lemba and their supposed Ark of the Covenant, go here and follow the links back.

Review of The Sisters of Sinai

THE SISTERS OF SINAI, by Janet Soskice, is reviewed by Lawton Posey in the Charleston Gazette. Excerpt:
Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson, the intrepid twins, made their travels to St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai desert to study the books stored there in a place not usually open to women. Securing admission through the good offices of a bishop, they did indeed enter the library, ultimately finding an exceedingly rare volume which seemed to be one thing and was discovered to be another. Hidden beneath more modern writings, and by using special chemicals, Agnes and Margaret were able to see revealed before them a very early set of the four Gospels in Syriac. This astounding find was made by two women who had not only made the journey of discovery, but had the audacity to challenge the scholarly community as to the truth of their claims.

Remember, they had no degrees, had attended no university and were largely self-taught.
And here's something I didn't know:
Ultimately, they did receive honors, and even the very Presbyterian-influenced University of St. Andrews gave them both honorary degrees.
Good for us.

More reviews here and follow the links.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

More on the St. Paul DSS exhibition

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION upcoming in the Science Museum of Minnesota is getting a lot of attention. This Star Tribune article has some newish background:
The Israel Antiquities Authority will actually swap out the five-scroll set twice because the artifacts are so sensitive and fragile. They don't want to display them longer than 10 weeks at a time.

Negotiating to secure the scrolls' 13th U.S. visit and 21st trip out of Israel has been a seven-year odyssey for Science Museum staff, featuring a $750,000 conservation fee, a cave-exploring trip along the Dead Sea's northwestern coast and construction of the most sophisticated display cases in the museum's 103-year history. There was even a pivotal 2006 wining-and-dining session of Israel's directors of artifacts and treasures that began at the Mall of America and ended up at a Target store on St. Paul's East Side (more on that later).
There are lots more interesting details about the mechanics of the exhibition, but the article never gets back to the Target store.

Note the scroll photo to the right. It's of a manuscript of Genesis that I edited in DJD 12.

UPDATE: And here's a article that gives a précis of the theories about the origins of the scrolls.

Rioting in Mea Shearim

The conflict was ignited when a man decided to build on land he acquired in Tzippori, which had been found to contain archaeological findings. The man was ordered by the Antiquities Authority to allow a dig, which uncovered an ancient Jewish burial cave.

The authority notified the police and the Ministry of Religious Affairs of its findings and said it planned to dig further in order to document them.

But large groups of haredim have been arriving to protest at the site for the past few days, fearing the graves may be damaged. Four were arrested, and others were prevented from entering the area. The dig began Sunday morning, with large police forces securing the group of scientists.

The world's oldest man knows Aramaic

PHILOLOGY IS GOOD FOR YOU: The world's oldest man knows Aramaic. Etc.
( He has trouble seeing, but as one who has repeated the prayers for more than a century, he knows them by heart. David Pur, age 115, continues to learn Torah and to pray every day, now in the nursing home to where he moved just three months ago.


“I have had plenty of time to memorize the Biblical writings,” he said. He prays every morning while standing next to Moshe, who has just turned 100, and who Pur says sometimes seems lost – but is guided by his older friend.

Born in 1895 in what was then Persia and today is Iran, Pur became an adviser to the Shah, who admired his mastery of languages, including Persian, Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic and French. He later added Tagalog, a language spoke in the Philippines, while learning to care for Filipinos. He and his family made aliyah to Israel in 1948.