Friday, June 04, 2010

John Klimo, Channeling

Jon Klimo with Charles T. Tart, Channeling: Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources (Revised and updated ed.; Berkeley, Ca.: North Atlantic Books, 1998)
No, I'm not going New Age-rogue on you. One of my lines of research is looking at modern and cross-cultural forms of visionary experience for a better understanding of ancient biblical(-related) visionary texts. With this book I'm exploring the possibility that some of the ancient writers of biblical pseudepigrapha wrote in the names of ancient prophets because they thought themselves to be "channeling" those prophets. I presented an SBL paper that discussed the idea in 2006. (The link to the paper itself has rotted. Sorry. I'll try to get around to putting it back.)

UPDATE (6 January 2011): The paper is now back online here (pdf file).

More Cambridge manuscripts are going online

CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY has received a large private donation to put more of its manuscripts online:
Cambridge University Library to publish rare faith and science books on internet
Thousands of rare books and manuscripts at Camrbidge University Library – including handwritten notes by Sir Isaac Newton – are to be made available on line thanks to a £1.5m donation.

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent (The Telegraph)
Published: 5:01AM BST 04 Jun 2010

The gift from the former businessman Dr Leonard Polonsky will be used to start the Digital Library for the 21st Century create an infrastructure capable of digitising the vast collection housed at the 600-year-old institution.

Digitisation will be completed in stages, with the first collections to be called "The Foundations of Faith" and "The Foundations of Science".

Among the Library's religious collections are some of the world's most ancient Qur'ans and an eighth century copy of the Surat al-Anfal, the Qur'an's eighth chapter.

Judaism is represented by the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection containing 193,000 fragments of manuscripts as significant as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Christian documents include a Greek New Testament manuscript, the Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis, and a 1455 copy of the Gutenberg Bible, the earliest European book produced using movable type.

This project seems to be different from the Cairo Geniza Digitization Project, on which see here.

UPDATE (5 June): Tommy Wasserman comments at Evangelical Textual Criticism.

Jewish genetics

NEW RESEARCH shows a shared genetic pattern for Jews from widely dispersed communities:
Study finds genetic links among Jewish people

Published: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 12:55 in Health & Medicine (Eureka Science News)

Using sophisticated genetic analysis, scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and New York University School of Medicine have published a study indicating that Jews are a widely dispersed people with a common ancestry. Jews from different regions of the world were found to share many genetic traits that are distinct from other groups and that date back to ancient times. The study also provides the first detailed genetic maps of the major Jewish subpopulations, a resource that can be used to study the genetic origins of disease. The findings appear in the June 3 online issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics.


The researchers found that Jews from the major Diaspora groups formed a distinct population cluster, albeit one that is closely related to European and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations. Each of the Diaspora groups also formed its own cluster within the larger Jewish cluster. Further, each group demonstrated Middle-Eastern ancestry and varying degrees of mixing with surrounding populations. The genetic analysis showed that the two major groups, Middle Eastern Jews and European Jews, diverged from each other approximately 2,500 years ago.

"The study supports the idea of a Jewish people linked by a shared genetic history," said Dr. Ostrer of NYU. "Yet the admixture with European people explains why so many European and Syrian Jews have blue eyes and blond hair."

This is about what I would expect.

An article in Science Now covers the same study and notes that it does not support Sholmo Sand's arguments in The Invention of the Jewish People and it neither supports nor completely rules out the claim that Ashkenazi Jews descend from the Turkic Khazars. It adds this:
The study does not address the status of groups whose claim to Jewishness has been controversial, such as Ethiopian Jews, the Lemba from southern Africa, and several groups from India and China. But given the findings of a common genetic origin plus a complex history of admixture, geneticist David Goldstein of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, says that neither of the "extreme models"—those that see Jewishness as entirely cultural or entirely genetic—"are correct." Rather, Goldstein says, "Jewish genetic history is a complicated mixture of both genetic continuity from an ancestral population and extensive admixture."
For the Lemba, go here and follow the many links. Also, a recent AP article surveys Tudor Parfitt's theories about them and brings in some criticisms from other historians.

UPDATE: The LA Times has the genetics story here. And Joseph Lauer notes a link to the American Journal of Human Genetics article here. The abstract reads:
For more than a century, Jews and non-Jews alike have tried to define the relatedness of contemporary Jewish people. Previous genetic studies of blood group and serum markers suggested that Jewish groups had Middle Eastern origin with greater genetic similarity between paired Jewish populations. However, these and successor studies of monoallelic Y chromosomal and mitochondrial genetic markers did not resolve the issues of within and between-group Jewish genetic identity. Here, genome-wide analysis of seven Jewish groups (Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, Italian, Turkish, Greek, and Ashkenazi) and comparison with non-Jewish groups demonstrated distinctive Jewish population clusters, each with shared Middle Eastern ancestry, proximity to contemporary Middle Eastern populations, and variable degrees of European and North African admixture. Two major groups were identified by principal component, phylogenetic, and identity by descent (IBD) analysis: Middle Eastern Jews and European/Syrian Jews. The IBD segment sharing and the proximity of European Jews to each other and to southern European populations suggested similar origins for European Jewry and refuted large-scale genetic contributions of Central and Eastern European and Slavic populations to the formation of Ashkenazi Jewry. Rapid decay of IBD in Ashkenazi Jewish genomes was consistent with a severe bottleneck followed by large expansion, such as occurred with the so-called demographic miracle of population expansion from 50,000 people at the beginning of the 15th century to 5,000,000 people at the beginning of the 19th century. Thus, this study demonstrates that European/Syrian and Middle Eastern Jews represent a series of geographical isolates or clusters woven together by shared IBD genetic threads.

Another Greenberg obituary

ANOTHER OBITUARY for Moshe Greenberg:
Professor's Death Means Loss of a Biblical Giant
June 03, 2010


By Jeffrey H. Tigay (Jewish Exponent)

The world of Jewish scholarship is mourning the loss of professor Moshe Greenberg, who died in Jerusalem on May 15 after a long illness. Greenberg was one of the most influential scholars of the 20th century, but his impact extended far beyond the academy due to his lifelong commitment to sharing the results of scholarship with the Jewish public. His influence was felt through his service on the Jewish Publication Society's Bible translation committee, articles in newspapers and magazines, and his impact on rabbis, teachers and other students during decades of teaching in the United States and Israel.

For those of us who had the privilege of being his graduate students, he was an inspiring role model.


Thursday, June 03, 2010

BMCR Review of Thomasen (ed.), Canon and Canonicity

Einar Thomassen (ed.), Canon and Canonicity. The Formation and Use of Scripture. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2010. Pp. 232. ISBN 9788763530279. $48.00.

Reviewed by David J. DeVore, University of California, Berkeley (

Table of Contents

As editor Thomassen's preface states (p. 7), the volume under review is the fruit of "Highways and Byways," a project based in Norway's Bergen University; the stated aim of the project is to explore early Christian discourses distinguishing "orthodoxy" from "heresy." The volume contains ten essays by seven scholars based in Scandinavia, two from Greece, and one in the United States. Seven essays focus at least partially on canons in the Roman world; the last three study biblical canons in northern Europe since the Renaissance and will not be considered here.

Interesting associations and questions surround the formation of the Christian (and Jewish) Biblical canons as they became fixed by the middle of the fifth century. During the twentieth century and into the current decade the field concentrated on gathering relevant evidence, and then reading that evidence closely to see which authors/communities accepted which texts as sacred and when, and how firm the boundaries were between sacred, acceptable, and condemned texts.1 While these works eradicated the previous teleological assumption that somehow the eventual New Testament texts were intrinsically more central to Christianity, their agenda also narrowed the scholarship to repeatedly addressing questions of dating and community. But scholars of canonization have begun to address two wider clusters of questions, approaches, and explanations for the canons.

First, discussion of the formation of the Christian canon had until very recently remained "internalist": the diachronic formation and sanction of community's collective norms were described and explained almost solely from evidence generated by that community, so that works on the biblical canons focused almost exclusively on testimonia from elite insiders. An "externalist" account, by contrast, will show how its subject relates to adjacent contemporary events, debates, and power structures, but is not likely to present the internal evidence for canonization exhaustively.2 Some scholars working on Jewish and Christian canonicity, notably Jan Assmann, Jed Wyrick, and collectively the 2004 collection edited by Enrico Norelli, have recently adduced evidence from outside the Jewish and Christian ambits for probing Jewish and Christian canonicity.3

The second domain into which canonization studies have recently ventured is theory: for exploring the establishment of a canon of authoritative texts, social and literary theory offer numerous concepts and questions, as well as comparable contexts from other times and places. For example, literary critics have been debating the significance of canonicity in reading and educational practices for decades, while students of historical memory have illuminated processes by which societies select particular memories and canonize mementos of them.4 The works of Assmann and Wyrick noted above, as well as the deconstructionist monograph of Giuseppe Veltri, have pushed canonization studies into this realm.5

To the credit of all contributors, the volume under review continues to theorize and externalize the methodologies for biblical canon studies. The results, though not of uniform quality, will nonetheless provoke plenty of new directions for research.


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

More on Paris DSS exhibit

MORE ON THE PARIS DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBIT: Joseph Lauer notes the exhibition website (English version). The French version (here) also has numerous added-value goodies, including pdf booklets, a video, and lots of exhibition images.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

DSS exhibit in Paris

Dead Sea Scrolls Pose Enigmas in Rare Paris Exhibit of Fragments: Review

By Jorg von Uthmann - May 31, 2010 (Bloomberg)

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 was, along with the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, the greatest archaeological sensation of the 20th century. An exhibition at Paris’s National Library puts the scrolls in their historical and theological context and questions the mainstream hypothesis about their origin.

It’s the first show of this kind in France. That’s all the more amazing as French scholars were deeply involved in the deciphering of the scrolls and the tens of thousands of fragments on papyrus or parchment.

Most of the work was done at the Ecole Biblique et Archeologique in Jerusalem under the direction of the Dominican archaeologist Father Roland de Vaux.

To fund excavations at Khirbet Qumran on the western shore of the Dead Sea, De Vaux sold, in 1953, 377 fragments to the French government. Presented in airtight cases, they occupy the center of the theatrically staged show.

There are no specifics on the contents of these fragments.

And this is interesting:
Following Father de Vaux, most experts believe that the scrolls were composed by the Essenes, an austere Jewish sect praised by historian Flavius Josephus and located by Pliny the Elder in the desert near the Dead Sea.

The organizers of the show don’t buy that interpretation. Josephus and Pliny, they argue, are unreliable and contradictory sources; the Essenes appear neither in the New Testament nor in the vast rabbinical literature nor are they mentioned in the scrolls themselves.

The curators seem to agree with the Israeli historian Eyal Regev, who denies the existence of a Qumran community: It is, he says in his book “Sectarianism in Qumran” (2007), “an invention of scholars.”
UPDATE (2 June) More here (next post).

Milwaukee DSS exhibit closing

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION in Milwaukee closes on Sunday:
Public Museum's Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit closes Sunday

Gary Porter (Journal-Sentinel)

Posted: May 30, 2010 |(0) Comments

The Milwaukee Public Museum's special exhibition, "Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible: Ancient Artifacts, Timeless Treasures," closes Sunday.

Nearly 150,000 visitors have taken in the exhibit of authentic Dead Sea scroll fragments, illustrated manuscripts, rare Bibles and Holy Land artifacts dating from more than 2,000 years ago. "Dead Sea Scrolls" is the largest temporary exhibit ever produced by the museum staff.

Another brief note from WUWM Public Radio puts this in context:
The Scrolls exhibit is the largest temporary show ever done by the museum. It's sold 152,000 tickets since January and it's on track to be the fourth most popular show at the museum.
Dead Sea Scrolls exhibits always seem to be very successful.

Background here and follow the links.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Glenn Beck does the Dead Sea Scrolls

GLENN BECK DOES THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS: Lots of bloggers are getting very excited over Mr. Beck's recent foray into Qumranology. For those who haven't heard it yet, here is the audio file (via MediaMatters):

You can read the transcript over at Robert Cargill's blog. (The Fox News transcript seems to have left most of Mr. Beck's comments out - either that or this is a second mention of the Dead Sea Scrolls, making what I take to be the same point.) As Robert suggests, it looks as though Mr. Beck has confused the Nag Hammadi library with the Dead Sea Scrolls. He also, incidentally, has confused the Nicene Creed with the Apostles' Creed.

Many bloggers seem to have a visceral reaction to Glenn Beck himself, one that I suppose I might share if I had ever listened to him before this. I'd seen him invoked or excoriated by political bloggers from time to time but I actually wasn't quite sure who he was until I saw this story. Whoever he is, he provides another example of the fact that when journalists, pundits, or politicians try to talk about something I know about, they frequently get it seriously garbled. But you've noticed that too about whatever it is you know about, right? The obvious inference is that when journalists, pundits, or politicians talk about anything, there's a good chance it is seriously garbled in their minds. A cheery thought for a Monday morning.

UPDATE (7 June): More here.

Herculaneum scrolls still unreadable

THE CARBONIZED HERCULANEUM SCROLLS have turned out to be more of a challenge than was hoped:
UK scientists stymied in effort to read ancient scrolls

By Jim Warren - (

Some 2,000-year-old Roman scrolls are stubbornly hanging onto their ancient secrets, defying the best efforts of computer scientists at the University of Kentucky to unlock them.

The researchers have learned much about the scrolls, which were reduced to lumps of carbon in the heat of an eruption by Italy's Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. But they can't read what's written on them.

"What we've found is that the problem is even more challenging than we thought going in," said Brent Seales, Gill professor of engineering in UK's computer science department and leader of the team working on the scrolls.

The UK team spent a month last summer making numerous X-ray scans of two of the scrolls that are stored at the French National Academy in Paris. They hoped that computer processing would convert the scans into digital images showing the interiors of the scrolls and revealing the ancient writing. The main fear, however, was that the Roman writers might have used carbon-based inks, which would be essentially invisible to the scans.

That fear has turned out to be fact.

But they are not giving up!
Seales says he now hopes that re-scanning the scrolls with more powerful X-ray equipment will reveal the text, which scholars are anxious to read.
Bit by bit, a letter at a time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.

Background here.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day of Slavonic Alphabet

THE SLAVONIC ALPHABET was celebrated last Monday in Russia and Bulgaria. The Cyrillic alphabet and the translation work from Greek initiated by Sts. Cyril and Methodius was crucial for the preservation of some important Old Testament pseudepigrapha.

Gamla synagogue spared

Synagogue escapes massive fire at Golan nature reserve

The fire, reportedly started by a spark from a tank, consumed some 20,000 dunams of the nature reserve; the antiquities in the park were saved from destruction and only lightly damaged.

By Fadi Eyadat Tags: Israel news Golan Heights (Haaretz)

Large crowds visited the Gamla nature reserve in the Golan Heights on Saturday to see the massive damage caused by a fire that followed an Israel Defense Forces training exercise there last week. The fire, reportedly started by a spark from a tank, consumed some 20,000 dunams (about 5,000 acres ) of the nature reserve. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority called on the public to come to Gamla as an act of "identification" with the site.

Although the charred remains of dozens of animals have been found where the fire raged last week, the antiquities in the park were saved from destruction and only lightly damaged.


Archaeological remains on the site, including an ancient synagogue and mikveh (ritual Jewish purification bath ) covered with fragile plaster, were spared. The ancient artifacts are in a relatively unaffected location surrounded by blackened terrain. Zeev Margalit, an architect who is the director of the preservation and development division at the Parks Authority, said the antiquities may have been saved because of maintenance and the clearing of undergrowth. He also said the many paths for visitors at the archaeological site might have served as a firewall of sorts to halt the flames' spread.

I'm relieved to hear it, but I hope this doesn't happen again. Also, I would like to know exactly what "only lightly damaged" means.

Background here.