Saturday, October 30, 2010

Phoenicia completes her journey

THE GOOD SHIP PHOENICIA completed her journey almost a week ago:
Phoenicia Ship Arrives in Arwad Island Port

Tartous, Coastal Region- After a 26-month journey, Phoenicia Ship on Saturday arrived in the Port of Arwad Island, finishing its 17,000- mile trip around Africa.

The ship sailed through the Red Sea, the Cape of Good Hope and Gibraltar Strait in an attempt to revive the Phoenician heritage dating back to2600 years ago, carrying the message of peace and cultural communication that Syria has always been keen to spread throughout time.

The ship's captain, Philip Bill talked about the two-year voyage and the difficulties it went through such as the storms and high waves in South Africa, noting that the ship was once chased by a small boat in Somalia until a bigger ship helped them reach a safer place.

Congratulations to the crew and all involved!

Background here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A popular book on the Cairo Geniza

Rabbi tells story of Hebrew texts found in Cairo

Kathleen Lavey • • October 29, 2010 (LSJ)

Rabbi Mark Glickman first heard about the Cairo Genizah in 1985, while he was in rabbinical school.

The story of a trove of ancient documents found in a 1,000-year-old Egyptian synagogue doesn't get the same amount of ink as tales of the gold and jewels from the nearby tombs of Egyptian rulers.

But Glickman thinks maybe the crumbling documents should, because of the details they offer about life in the Middle East in the Middle Ages, when Arabic-speaking Jews were part of the fabric of the Islam-dominated society around them.

"The picture is of a Jewish culture that lives in peace and harmony and happiness, for the most part," Glickman said. "It not only paints a beautiful picture of the past, it paints a very hopeful picture of the future."

Glickman, who leads two small congregations near Seattle, is visiting Michigan and will discuss his new book, "Sacred Treasure: The Cairo Genizah" in two appearances: 7 p.m. Sunday at Congregation Kehillat Israel in Lansing, and at 7 p.m. Monday at Michigan State University.


To research the book - a snappy, fast-moving history written for the non-academic crowd - Glickman and his teenage son, Jacob, traveled to Cairo, where they got a glimpse inside the now-empty genizah, and Cambridge, where they looked over many documents.
A non-specialist treatment sounds like a good idea to me.

UPDATE (1 November): More here.

More coverage of Ehud Netzer's death

THE DEATH OF PROFESSOR EHUD NETZER in a tragic accident has been covered in many media articles in the last day including in the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, Arutz Sheva, and the AFP. I understand that the initial announcements yesterday were premature: he was on life support at the time, but with no hope of recovery. The life support was discontinued late yesterday.

Zenobia on Zenobia


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Eyewitness account of the Christmas story?

'Revelation of the Magi' an Ancient Manuscript Lost for Centuries in the Vatican Library Reveals Eyewitness Account of the Christmas Story

Theologian Brent Landau presents the ancient account of Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar, the three “wise men” who journeyed to Bethlehem to greet the birth of Jesus. The Revelation of the Magi offers the first-ever English translation of an ancient Syriac manuscript written in the second to third century after the birth of Christ and safeguarded for generations in the Vatican Library.
This book sounds like an important scholarly contribution, but if I were the author I would be kind of irritated with the headline of this press release (which I'm sure was composed without his knowledge or approval). The document claims to be an eyewitness account, like many apocryphal gospels, but of course it actually is a legend written centuries after the time of Jesus' birth, as the opening paragraph does make clear. As such, it is very good now to have an English translation of it.

UPDATE: Brent Landau e-mails:
The book is very attractively packaged with lots of pretty pictures, but scholars will also want to consult my dissertation, available here.

Zuckerman photographs SBTS's DSS fragments

THOSE DEAD SEA SCROLL FRAGMENTS acquired recently by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have been photographed by epigraphic photographer Bruce Zuckerman. Good.
Seminary's Dead Sea fragments go hi-tech

Posted on Oct 27, 2010 | by Benjamin Hawkins (Baptist Press)

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--In a convergence of ancient Scripture with the latest in photographic technology, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary worked with the West Semitic Research Project this fall to prepare for the study and publication of its Dead Sea Scrolls collection and other artifacts.

A workshop hosted by the seminary's Tandy Institute for Archaeology featured a team from the West Semitic Research Project at the University of Southern California that specializes in producing high-definition images of ancient texts and artifacts. The scholars made images of Southwestern's collection of Dead Sea Scrolls fragments as well as some artifacts from the seminary's Carlson Cuneiform Collection.

"The West Semitic Research Project is one of the best for the digital imaging of ancient manuscripts, particularly Dead Sea Scrolls fragments," said Steven Ortiz, associate professor of archaeology and biblical backgrounds at Southwestern and director of the Charles D. Tandy Archaeology Museum.

Background here and follow the links.

Is "pizzazz" Aramaic?

IS "PIZZAZZ" ARAMAIC? Anatoly Liberman at the OUP blog is very skeptical:
Pizzazz “flair, pep, etc.” I’ll first quote part of the letter: “According to my Chambers Dictionary, Diana Vreeland made piz[z]azz popular in the thirties, but there is a similar word with a similar meaning in the Talmud. It’s entirely possible that the word traveled to America via Yiddish. [… ] I fear the NED’s long-established tendency to be Hebrew-blind might spill over into Aramaic.” NED (New English Dictionary) is the same as OED. Not being a specialist in either Hebrew or Yiddish, I can offer only very vague and inconclusive advice. Our correspondent may have found the Hebrew etymology of pizzazz in Isaac Mozeson’s dictionary The Word. If this is so, he has enough reason to distrust it, because this dictionary is a collection of moderately amusing, but mainly irritating fantasies (the author who has no knowledge of historical linguistics traces a sizable section of the vocabulary of English to Hebrew). Second, whatever the practice of OED (I am not sure it pays no heed to Hebrew or Aramaic), in English etymology it is sometimes better to be Hebrew-blind than Hebrew/Yiddish-wide-eyed. Dozens of English words, especially those related to swindling and crime and those sounding funny, have been declared Hebrew or Yiddish, with no research supporting such statements. To show that pizzazz has come to English from Hebrew via Yiddish, proof us needed that this word was sufficiently common among the New York Jews and popularized by them in slang. I am not aware of such evidence. Those lexicographers who dared offer conjectures about pizzazz suggested an unlikely blend, an imitation of a roar, and so forth. Finally, pizzazz, with its multiple z’s, has such a strong sound symbolic shape that it could easily be coined in different places at different times and refer to exuberance and zest (incidentally, zest, of French descent, also has a z and is also of unknown origin; it first designated part of a walnut and was put into drinks for flavor; similar use has been recorded in connection with pizzazz). I once dealt with the obscure etymology of razzmatazz (evidently, razz-ma-tazz), swizzle, and tizzy “nervous excitement.” They taught me great caution in dealing with z-words.
As I noted a couple of years ago, Philologos agrees.

Dead Sea Scrolls drew 262,171 to Science Museum

STATISTICS: Dead Sea Scrolls drew 262,171 to Science Museum.

Background to the Minnesota exhibition here.

Ehud Netzer has died

EHUD NETZER has died from a tragic accident at the Herodium excavation. The Jerusalem Post reports the accident here. Overnight the news has reached me from multiple sources that he died from his injuries yesterday. This was forwarded by Mladen Popovic:
Van: Roger Wilson
Datum: 28 oktober 2010 7:09:48 GMT+02:00
Onderwerp: Professor Ehud Netzer
Antwoord aan: Roger Wilson

Colleagues will be saddened to learn that Professor Ehud Netzer, the distinguished Israeli archaeologist, has died at the age of 76 after a tragic accident. On October 25th he fell 15 metres while excavating the ancient theatre on the hillside at Herodion, injuring his head and neck, and died two days later in hospital in Jerusalem. His discovery at Herodion of the Tomb of Herod in 2007 made headlines around the world, but he will be remembered for many superlative excavations at sites associated with Herod, culminating in his magisterial The Architecture of Herod, the Great Builder (2006), as well as for the excavations at Sepphoris, which he directed from 1985 to 1993. A modest and unassuming man, who wore his learning lightly, he will be greatly missed by his family and friends and by colleagues around the world. Anyone who wishes to express their sympathy should write to Kathryn Gleeson (, who will pass on your words to Ehud’s family and his colleagues at the Hebrew University.

Professor R J A Wilson, MA, DPhil, FSA
Professor of the Archaeology of the Roman Empire
Director, Centre for the Study of Ancient Sicily
Head, Department of Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies
University of British Columbia
1866 Main Mall
Vancouver V6T 1Z1
I noted his announcement in 2007 of the discovery of Herod's tomb here. His most recent appearance at PaleoJudaica was in the middle of last month, here.

May his memory be for a blessing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More fragments of the Gospel of Judas


New book: Elior, A Garden Eastward in Eden

גן בעדן מקדם: מסורות גן עדן בישראל ובעמים
Gan Beden Mikedem, Masorot Gan Eden beIsrael uBeamim
A Garden Eastward in Eden: Traditions of Paradise: Changing Jewish Perspectives and Comparative Dimensions of Culture, edited by Rachel Elior,
Scholion-Interdisciplinary Research Center in Jewish Studies, The Hebrew University, Magnes Press: Jerusalem 2010
ISBN 978-965-493-461-9
ebook ISBN 978-965-493-462-6

Review: Herrero de Jáuregui, Orphism and Christianity in Late Antiquity

Miguel Herrero de Jáuregui, Orphism and Christianity in Late Antiquity. Sozomena. Studies in the Recovery of Ancient Texts 7. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2010. Pp. xiii, 442. ISBN 9783110206333. $136.00.

Reviewed by Benjamin Garstad, MacEwan University (


Readers seeking a speculative and sensational exposé of intimate and hitherto secret links between phantasmal circles of Orphic adepts and the first Christians will not find one in this book. Instead Herrero de Jáuregui has offered the scholarly world a sober and substantial contribution which is sure to stand the test of time in the form of a philological examination of the testimonies of Orphic texts and practice found in early Christian apologetic literature. This material (the most important examples of which are offered in translation as appendices to the volume) is not only among our best evidence for the phenomenon of Orphism in antiquity, it also represents a telling case-study of the early Christian engagement with the religious and philosophical discourse of the Greek culture which surrounded it, as the early Christians might have said, of which it was a part as contemporary scholars, like Herrero de Jáuregui might say. All those interested in the religious life, both pagan and Christian, of the Imperial centuries should be grateful that this translation has made Herrero de Jáuregui’s 2007 book Tradición órfica y cristianismo antiguo accessible to a wider audience.


Michael Coogan on Bible"family values"

MICHAEL COOGAN: Bible has some shocking 'family values'.

Reminiscing about the Harvard Old Church Slavonic course

JOHN FREEDMAN REMINISCES in the Moscow Times about the Harvard Old Church Slavonic course:
Lunt did not brook lazy thought, to say nothing of lazy actions. He would not abide it in his students or in his scholarly opponents. The professor’s often cranky, cantankerous articles, reviews and letters to editors were legendary. And this is important — in fact, it is the whole point: The legend grew not because of Lunt’s acerbic pen, but because of the unparalleled clarity and superiority of his arguments.

Lunt may have shot down more puffed-up academic careers than any other scholar of his time. And it was all because he believed in the truth and in doing things thoroughly and right. People established reputations by concocting elaborate theories for aberrations in syntax or word formation in old texts, or at least until Lunt realized that their whole argument was based on that simplest and most malicious bane of human existence — the error. The scribal error.

The wrong letter in the wrong place; a strange shift in the narrative flow of a sentence. What some interpreted as Old Church Slavonic morphing into Old Russian or showing the influence of some other linguistic construction was nothing more than the result of a scribal error.

I love conjuring Lunt in my mind as he describes the situation to us.

“The candle was burning low. The poor monk had been without sleep for 24 hours. It was cold outside. No. It was freezing. The cell in which the monk worked was like a block of ice. A wolf howled outside his door. He took his mind off what he was doing for just one second, but when he turned his bleary eyes back to the page he had lost his connection to what he was doing. He wrote down the wrong letter. Scribal error. This is not an example of linguistic development.”

Sure enough, Lunt showed us similar situations in the same text, recorded by the same scribe, and all were correct. Only this one was wrong. Scribal error. Bleary eyes.

Horace Lunt and I were never close. I wasn’t of much interest to him, for my field of study was literature, not linguistics. He knew perfectly well that those of us studying literature just needed to get some requirements out of the way in order to go about doing what we were in graduate school to do. I don’t think he begrudged us that. It was merely another of those things about which nothing could be done — like scribal errors. If the latter could not be suffered, the former could.

I’ll go further in the interest of full disclosure and honesty. I did not much like Old Church Slavonic, which we all called OCS. Oh, there were things that fascinated me and stuck with me, like the fact that the name of Old King Wenceslaus from the Christmas carol can be demonstrated to be the same name as the Slavic Vyacheslav. But that’s the pop version of OCS. It’s pretty much all I retained in the way of the discipline’s science.

Which brings me to the point of this freeform remembrance: Horace Lunt had more influence on me than any other scholar I studied with. His rigor came through loud and clear during that first class I had with him in September 1983. I can still hear it in my head to this day.

Every time I fail to catch a typo, every time I fail to properly check a fact, every time I say “good enough,” only to learn later that I was less than exact, I remember Horace Lunt. Scribal error. For all that I never learned or retained from his truly extraordinary course in Old Church Slavonic, I was profoundly affected by his attitude, his approach, his honesty before himself, his colleagues and his work.
Professor Lunt reminds me of Professor William Moran, from whom I took introductory Akkadian at the same place at exactly the same time. Moran's dictum You have to make the grammar work is branded into my synapses.

More on Old Church Slavonic here and here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review of Collins, Beyond the Qumran Community

BOOK REVIEW from the H-JUDAIC list:
John Joseph Collins. Beyond the Qumran Community: The Sectarian
Movement of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids William B. Eerdmans
Pub. Co., 2010. xii + 266 pp. Illustrations. $25.00 (paper), ISBN

Reviewed by Alex Jassen (University of Minnesota)
Published on H-Judaic (October, 2010)
Commissioned by Jason Kalman

Revisiting the Origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls


Into this fray enters John J. Collins's new book _Beyond the Qumran Community: The Sectarian Movement of the Dead Sea Scrolls_. The bulk of its pages carefully assess the merits and drawbacks of many of the prevailing theories on the Dead Sea Scrolls and Qumran. At the same time as Collins deftly critiques sixty years of scholarship, he offers his own vision for the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls and their relationship to the site of Qumran. Collins is well positioned to undertake both tasks, having long been active in the study of the scrolls. His sobering approach to the material allows the evidence to speak for itself--rather than the phenomenon Collins observes far too often, of scholars speaking for the text (and, of course, saying far too much). In this sense, a good deal of this volume consists of a careful deconstruction of other approaches, many of which are rendered speculative at best by the textual or archaeological evidence. His analysis of the textual evidence is restrained, perhaps too restrained for many. But, in the end, this judicious approach often leaves the reader in agreement with Collins versus the alternatives.


A soferet writes a Torah scroll

A SOFERET is writing a Torah scroll:
Local Woman Bucks Jewish Law, Handwrites Religious Text

by Bay City News

October 25, 2010 11:53 AM

In a dimly lit alcove on the second floor of San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum, a young woman has spent the last year performing a task for which the process has barely changed since about 500 A.D.

Five and a half centuries after the printing press was invented and decades after word processors came to dominate offices, 35-year-old Julie Seltzer is nearing completion of one of the few handwritten ritual Torah scrolls ever to be commissioned from a woman.

Seltzer's work is the centerpiece of "As It is Written," a museum exhibit that gives patrons an intimate experience with the 62 sheets, 248 columns, 10,416 lines, and 304,805 letters of the ritual, or Sifrei, Torah.

The museum estimates that more than 86,000 visitors have watched Seltzer deliberately form the letters of the Sifrei Torah with hand-made turkey quills and kosher ink. She writes on parchment made of cow hide and sharpens the quills every five lines or so.

Jews call themselves the People of the Book, and that book is the Torah. It's comprised of the five the books of Moses, which are also the first five books of the Old Testament in the Bible.

Printed copies of the Torah are used for study, but only a Torah scroll written by a trained scribe, or sofer, is permitted for holidays and other ritual use.

Seltzer is a female scribe, or soferet, and while Jewish law traditionally permits women to write wedding contracts and do decorative work on scriptures, the Talmud, an important 6th Century Jewish text, specifically says Torahs written by women are not kosher.

Museum Director Connie Wolf decided she wanted to hire a woman anyway.

Does the Talmud actually say that? Does someone have the reference?

For more on female scribes, including Jen Taylor Friedman, who trained Ms. Seltzer (and who also created Tefillin Barbie), go here and follow the links.

Director of El Shaddai on the Book of Enoch

TAKEYASU SAWAKI, the Director of El Shaddai: The Ascension of the Metatron, has more to say about his use of 1 Enoch:
"As a Japanese creator, I want to make something that only Japanese people can make. I don't want to follow the European people's way," he told Gamasutra in a new feature interview. While his studio is based in Japan, parent Ignition Entertainment is headquartered in the UK.

The game is based books from the Christian Apocrypha, books considered by Protestant Christians to not be part of the Biblical canon. El Shaddai is essentially a Japanese imagining of parts of the Western religion. The main character in the game is Enoch, a very pure former human that is now working for God.

"I read, of course, the Book of Enoch, and I also read a lot of other people's books dealing with those two characters. I think all of those books were boring," said Sawaki, who also worked at Capcom on Devil May Cry and Okami. "I think my image of Enoch is closer to the original Enoch. Because I read a lot of information, and based on that, I drew this Enoch."
1 Enoch is part of the Old Testament pseudepigrapha, although, given its transmission and use in Christian circles, it could be regarded as a Christian apocryphon as well. It is canonical only to the Ethiopic Church, so it outside the biblical canon not only for Protestants, but also Jews, Catholics and the (Christian) Orthodox.

Background here.

A visit to the Madaba Map

THE MADABA MAP was visited by Kalpala Sunder, who writes about it in The Hindu:
Time machine


Bucolic scenes where herds of goats have the unofficial right of way, Bedouins swathed in flowing robes… Jordan echoes with stories from the Bible and reminders of the hoary past. This country is mentioned in both the Old and the New Testament as the tribal kingdoms of Edom, Moab and Ammon.

From Amman, we drive down the 5,000-year-old King's highway (one of the oldest roads in the world), which rambles through stunning landscapes. Our first stop is at Madaba the Mosaic Town. Hundreds of mosaic maps are scattered throughout this town where Christians and Muslims live in harmony. Madaba is an archaeologist's delight. The St. George's Greek Orthodox Church is a 19th Century construction, which has on its floors, a fragment of a wonderfully vivid mosaic map dating back to the 6th Century. This is the first cartographic representation of the Holy Land. This map, unearthed in 1896, was once a clear map of all the major Biblical sites from Palestine to Egypt, with over 150 captions in Greek. This map was probably intended to help pilgrims to the Holy Land. Today, this map has helped archaeologists and historians assign modern-day sites to places mentioned in the Bible.

Attention to detail

What makes the map come alive are the details — the fish that swim in the Jordan River turn back when they get to the Dead Sea; the lion that hunts a gazelle in the desert; the palm trees at Jericho...

More on the Madaba Map here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Charlesworth interviewed about Google DSS project

JAMES CHARLESWORTH is interviewed by the BBC about the new Google Dead Sea Scrolls archiving project.

Background here.

Samaritans mark holiday of Tabernacles

SAMARITANS mark holiday of Tabernacles - a photo gallery.

HT Carla Sulzbach again.

New World Hebrew Forgeries and Arutz Sheva

THOSE NEW WORLD HEBREW FORGERIES have taken in Arutz Sheva, which embarrasses itself thoroughly with Audio: Did King Solomon Discover America Way Before Columbus? and King Solomon vs. Christopher Columbus. They fall for the Los Lunas inscription, the Bat Creek stone, and more. Why doesn't it occur to journalists to talk to some actual experts before publishing this tripe?

HT Carla Sulzbach.

Background here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Completion of the Steinsaltz Talmud translation

THE STEINSALTZ TALMUD TRANSLATION into Modern Hebrew is about to be completed:
Steinsaltz’s Talmud translation to be centerpiece of Global Day of Jewish Learning
North Jerseyans to take part in Global Day of Learning

Abigail Klein Leichman • Local (New Jersey Jewish Standard)
Published: 22 October 2010

Four North Jersey venues will join Jewish communities around the world in offering free programming on Nov. 7, the Global Day of Jewish Learning. This first-ever worldwide, trans/non-denominational program is planned to coincide with the culmination of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’s 45-year project to translate the voluminous Talmud from ancient Aramaic folios into modern punctuated Hebrew. The event also falls on the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey’s annual Mitzvah Day.

At about 2 p.m., Steinsaltz is scheduled to pen the final words of his monumental work in a live telecast from Jerusalem. A champion for open access to Jewish learning, he is widely credited with making talmudic study available to the masses, as his translation is being prepared for publication in French, Russian, English, and Spanish.

This is a celebration of the completion of the Hebrew translation, but a fair number of tractates have also been translated into English.

SBTS acquires more DSS fragments

THREE MORE Dead Sea Scroll fragments have been acquired by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary:
Fort Worth seminary obtains more pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Posted Friday, Oct. 22, 2010 (Star-Telegram)

FORT WORTH -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has acquired three more fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the seminary announced this week.

The fragments were obtained from a private collector in Europe through a gift from a friend of the seminary, according to a news release. Early analysis shows that the new fragments include two portions of Deuteronomy and one of the Psalms.

SBTS obtained three additional fragments early this year.