Saturday, June 12, 2010

Off to San Diego

I'M OFF TO SAN DIEGO to visit family. Blogging should continue pretty much as normally. I'll be in transit all day, so look for me again late tonight or Sunday.

Friday, June 11, 2010

More Milgrom obituraries

MORE OBITUARIES for Jacob Milgrom:
Jacob Milgrom, 87, bible scholar
By Raphael Ahren (Haaretz)

With the passing of Professor Jacob Milgrom on Saturday in Jerusalem, Israel has lost its second leading Bible scholar in three weeks. Both Milgrom, who immigrated in 1994, and Professor Moshe Greenberg, who died last month at 81, were American-born Conservative rabbis and academics recognized as preeminent authorities in their field. Milgrom was 87.

"He was a master in the understanding of biblical cult and ritual and became the paradigm of research in this field - his works are cited by everyone," said Professor Shalom Paul, a native Philadelphian and former chairman of Hebrew University's Bible department.

Rabbi, biblical scholar Jacob Milgrom dies at 87
by amanda pazornik, staff writer (

Historian Fred Rosenbaum will remember Jacob Milgrom — a rabbi, biblical scholar and professor emeritus of Near Eastern studies at U.C. Berkeley — not poring over biblical tomes, but opening the home he shared with his wife, Jo, and their children to students for Shabbat.

“Just to be invited to Shabbat dinner at the Milgrom home was a wonderful invitation,” said Rosenbaum, who was a graduate student in Jewish history at U.C. Berkeley when he first met Milgrom in the early 1970s. “People really treasured it, including me. I was personally touched by Jack, both by his intellect and his human sensitivity and caring about others.”

Milgrom died June 6 at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem of a brain hemorrhage related to a fall. He was 87.

Best known for his comprehensive commentaries on Torah and his work on the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Conservative rabbi wrote a three-volume series on Leviticus, interpreting Jewish dietary and purification rituals as well as the Bible’s position on homosexuality. He concluded the ban on homosexuality applies only to Jewish men.

“Jacob Milgrom’s painstaking analysis of the priestly laws in the Bible gave these seemingly arcane and antiquated practices ethical urgency and philosophical meaning,” said David Biale, a former professor at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley who now teaches in the Jewish studies program at U.C. Davis.

His commentaries on Leviticus and Numbers are masterpieces.

The AP also has a brief note of his passing here.

Slavic manuscript digitization

A PROJECT to digitize Slavic manuscripts:
Building Digital Library For South Slavic Manuscripts

Thursday, 10 June 2010 12:04

Written by Eurasia Review


From 2000 the Department of Old Bulgarian Literature in the Institute of Literature at BAS created the unique template for Slavic manuscripts encoding – TSM (Template for Slavic Manuscripts) in XML format. The Repertorium Initiative (head: Senior Researcher Anissava Miltenova, web page: is an XML format database containing analytical descriptions of more than 300 Slavonic manuscripts. The corpus is utilized for text search and automatic construction of typology of mediaeval miscellanies. The project participates in the Text Encoding Initiative (member since 2003), cf.


The project aims at the following main objectives. Most importantly at activating the cooperation between Southeast Slavic countries and Central Europe in the field of medieval Slavic studies, especially as far as the Balkan written cultural heritage is concerned. Participants from five countries construct a network between institutions, which is directed towards researching the Balkan monastic culture and presenting the Slavonic culture from a comparative perspective. During the project execution we intend to organize a workshop on the implementation of computer applications in medieval studies and especially in the description and analysis of written heritage (principles and methods, terminology, architecture of data, etc.). In the frames of the workshop, a roundtable on monastic culture is to be included. One of the expected considerable effects of the project is the development of international standards for the computer encoding of the Slavic written heritage. Its goal is to create a common platform for electronic publishing. The most important outcome of the project will be the construction of the web page ( containing the results from the existing research for the Balkan written heritage and culture presented in relevant software.
A number of Old Testament pseudepigrapha have been preserved in Church Slavonic. For other manuscript digitization projects, go here and follow the links.

A Samaritan archaeological site

Samaritans seek opening of holy site found in IDF dig

By Chaim Levinson (Haaretz)

At the peak of Mount Gerizim in the West Bank is a fenced-off archeological site, where a dig conducted under the auspices of the Israel Defense Forces Civil Administration recently uncovered a well-preserved 2,000-year-old city, once home to 10,000 people.


Benny Katzover, who served for many years as head of the Samaria Regional Council, said the excavations began in an effort to find what the Samarians regard as their Holy Temple. Katzover said the ancient historian Joseph Flavius explained that, following disputes with the Jews, the Samaritans moved their spiritual center to Mount Gerizim, near what is now the West Bank city of Nablus, and built their temple on a scope identical to the one in Jerusalem.

"The finds," he said, "reveal a high standard of living, including baths and ceramic tile and heating and mosaics... You can see that it was the capital of a whole kingdom."

Preparations were made to open the site to the public, including a lookout point facing Nablus and the site of the ancient city of Shechem, along with signage explaining the finds. With the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, the plans were shelved, but with the improved security situation the Samaria Regional Council and the Samaritan community have been pressing for the public to be given access to the site.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

The DSS and textual criticism

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS and textual criticism:
Searching for the Better Text
How errors crept into the Bible and what can be done to correct them

by Harvey Minkoff (BAR)

Isaiah’s vision of universal peace is one of the best-known passages in the Hebrew Bible: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).

But does this beloved image of the Peaceable Kingdom contain a mistranslation?

For years many scholars suspected that it did. Given the parallelism of the phrases, one would expect a verb instead of “the fatling.” With the discovery of the Isaiah Scroll among the Dead Sea Scrolls, those scholars were given persuasive new support. The Isaiah Scroll contains a slight change in the Hebrew letters at this point in the text, yielding “will feed”: “the calf and the young lion will feed together.”

This is just one of numerous variations from the traditional text of the Hebrew Bible contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls. In some cases the traditional text is clearly superior, but in others the version in the scrolls is better.

A good introductory article on the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible.

Horvat Kur excavation

HORVAT KUR, an ancient village in the Galilee, is being excavated this summer by a group from Leiden University:
Digging for the foundations of the New Testament

Between 20 June and 16 July theologist J├╝rgen Zangenberg and his students will again be carrying out archaeological research on a hill by the Sea of Galilee. Where was the olive press? How were houses laid out? Where could you enjoy a chat with your neighbour? And where did drinking water come from?

Rural Galilee

Ten volunteers from Leiden - students of Theology and Archaeology - will be going to Isreal with students from other Dutch universities and colleagues from Switzerland, Finland and Rumania (35 in total) with the Professor of the New Testament in search of rural Galilee in the Graeco-Roman period. It is currently the only Dutch excavation site in Israel.


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

David Ussishkin on the Temple Mount in the First Temple Period

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Archaeologist David Ussishkin has reprinted an important survey article on "The Temple Mount in Jerusalem during the First Temple Period" at the Bible and Interpretation website, downloadable as a pdf file. Excerpt:
Turning back to the problems of the Temple Mount, the above topographical and archaeological data leave us with four options for reconstructing the Temple Mount during the tenth century B.C.E.

First option: Based on the proposal of Knauf (2000), the Temple Mount formed the cultic and secular center of the city already during the Late Bronze Age and the earlier part of the Iron Age. However, there are no textual or archaeological indications to support this theory.

Second option: Based on the biblical tradition, Solomon built a small, modest temple on the Temple Mount, which formed the basis for later reconstruction and extension of the buildings here. In that case, the large compound and the monumental royal palace were added, and the temple was enlarged or rebuilt, in the eighth century B.C.E., when the Temple Mount was incorporated into the extended city. This is the view of Na'aman, who argued that Solomon built a temple on the Temple Mount, “though on a much smaller scale than the one built in the late monarchical period” (Na'aman 1996:23).

Third option: The royal acropolis was built as a separate entity by Solomon, as described in the biblical text, and it was incorporated in the expanding city during the late eighth century B.C.E.

Fourth option: The royal acropolis was built as described in the biblical text, but in the late eighth century B.C.E., when the modest tenth-century settlement became a large, fortified city and the Temple Mount was incorporated in it.

There is one strong argument in support of the first and second options. One would expect the planners of the city to have built the royal compound at the highest and most strategically located place in the city. The northern part of the Southwest Hill (figure 1:6), at an elevation of ca. 773 meters above sea level, is clearly the optimal place for the location of the acropolis, rather than the Temple Mount at ca. 743 meters (figure 1:4). And indeed, during the Second Temple period, the Hasmonean kings, and later Herod, shifted their royal palaces to the Southwest Hill. This is a clear indication that the Temple Mount had already been a significant cultic place before the extension of the city in the eighth century B.C.E., so that the royal acropolis was built at this spot.
His reconstruction of the Temple Mount in the time of Hezekiah is much more detailed, based to a large degree on inference from the biblical texts and deduction from similar sites of the same period elsewhere.

Read it all.

Some years ago at PaleoJudaica I surveyed the evidence for the existence of the First and Second/Herodian Temples.

Pulsa de nura rite appears again

THE PULSA DE NURA ritual of cursing is being invoked again:
MK Tibi 'Received Threat'

by Gil Ronen (Arutz Sheva)

Anti-Israel Knesset member Ahmed Tibi allegedly received a threatening letter Tuesday morning, from a group calling itself “Pulsa Dinura.” “Pulsa Dinura” is the name of a ritual ceremony with supposed kabbalistic roots, which has been used on occasion in Israel to call for the downfall of prominent public figures.

"Because of your poisonous positions against Israel and Zionism,” the letter said, “the organization's management has issued a Pulsa Dinura against you.”

"You have 180 days left to live. Your death will be sudden and cruel, accompanied by much pain... It is time that you prepare your will.”

Background here. The MK should not be too worried. The success rate of the pulsa de nura curse is not particularly impressive. One was put on Teddy Kollek, former mayor of Jerusalem, and he lived 25+ more years, dying at the age of ninety-five.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Oxyrhynchus Papyri volumes online

OXYRHYNCHUS PAPYRI VOLUMES ONLINE: Mark Goodacre has the links. (Via Chuck Jones at AWOL.)

Gnostics lose another lawsuit

SOME GNOSTICS have lost another lawsuit, this one in Utah. The court refuses to allow the group Summum to post their Seven Aphorisms in a city park where the Ten Commandments are displayed. The group says that on Mount Sinai Moses destroyed the stone tablets containing the Aphorisms because the Israelites were not yet mature enough for them. That does sound pretty Gnostic. But the world has moved on and now the Aphorisms (Principles) are online.

Hannibal profile

HANNIBAL, Carthaginian Military Leader, is profiled in Finding Dulcinea.

Nabucco at Masada

Israel breaks ground with opera on Dead Sea shores

Ori Lewis
Mon Jun 7, 2010 12:21pm EDT

MASADA Israel (Reuters) - Music lovers have found cause to celebrate in a groundbreaking spectacular opera event at one of Israel's most important landmarks.

The staging last week of Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi's Nabucco on a patch of desert on the shores of the Dead Sea with the historic mountain of Masada as a backdrop has taken Israel Opera to new realms, its director [Hanna Munitz] said.


The story of the Sicarii's defiance has turned the bare sandstone mountain into a revered site for Israelis and Jews who see it as a symbol of defiance in adversity.

That perception tied in well with the choice of Nabucco, the tale based on biblical king Nebuchadnezzar's capture and sacking of Jerusalem and his exiling of the Jews to Babylon.

"Nabucco is probably the most Jewish of all Verdi's operas and this area is so symbolic for Jewish history. So we thought that a combination of both will bring an added value to what we are doing," Munitz said.

Background here.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Greenberg obituary

AN OBITUARY for Moshe Greenberg has been published in Jewish Ideas Daily:
The Importance of Moshe Greenberg On May 15, a giant of Jewish Bible scholarship passed away in Jerusalem at the age of eighty-one. American-born and -educated, Moshe Greenberg combined classical erudition in ancient Near Eastern languages and rabbinic and medieval exegesis with the critical perspectives of modern scholarship, analytical deftness, and literary style. He brought all these to bear on the ancient texts to elicit both knowledge and moral and spiritual guidance.

More Greenberg obituaries etc. are here, here, here, and here.

What is the Septuagint?

WHAT IS THE SEPTUAGINT? asks John Shore at, and his briefly summary of its history is more or less correct. I'll take issue with just one paragraph:
The resultant volume -- which ultimately took at least one hundred years to finish, and included the entire Old Testament -- is known as the Septuagint (from the Latin word for seventy, for the seventy or so scholars who are said to have launched the work; the book is also known as "LXX," the Roman numeral for seventy).
It is an anachronism to refer to the Septuagint as a "volume." At the time of its translation, and for centuries to come, the individual books were written out separately (first in scrolls and later in codices), and so all the scriptures together would take up at least a number of shelves in a library. (The earliest surviving complete Bibles in a single bound volume come from the fourth century C.E. and tended to contain more books than are in anyone's biblical canon today.*)

The fact that the books were originally not bound together is important because it made the concept of "canon" more fluid: whether a book belongs in a library is a somewhat different question than whether in belongs bound with other books in a single volume. I suspect that the process of translation took more than a century and, in any case, many of the books were subjected to repeated translation revisions, so there wasn't a single, authoritative Greek translation circulating for each book. This variety is reflected in the New Testament quotations of the Septuagint.

*Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus contained texts now included among the Apostolic Fathers. Codex Vaticanus is damaged but may also have included material from the Apostolic Fathers. The inclusion of these books in the volume doesn't necessarily mean they were canonical; they may have just been considered useful or edifying.

More on Glenn Beck and the DSS

GLENN BECK'S garbled comments about the Dead Sea Scrolls are taken apart by Mark Shea in the National Catholic Register. Shea misses the confusion with the Nag Hammadi library but finely parses the errors about the Council of Nicaea.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Jacob Milgrom z"l

JACOB MILGROM Z"L. I am sorry to report the news that Jacob Milgrom died on Saturday. There's more on Professor Milgrom in David Noel Freedman's preface to this book. May his memory be for a blessing.

(News and links from the Agade list.)