Saturday, March 19, 2011

EP report and the Mor Gabriel Monastery

MOR GABRIEL MONASTERY UPDATE: Hurriyet Daily News reports that the most recent European Parliament report on Turkey takes the Turkish Government to task for its treatment of this Syriac monastery:
The 25th paragraph of the report reads that the EP “finds the Turkish Supreme Court [of Appeals] decision against Mor Gabriel Monastery, concerning a land dispute with villages and the Turkish Treasury, to be regrettable.”
If Turkey is serious about wanting full membership in the EU, it needs to watch this sort of thing.

Background here.

BMCR Review: Bar-Kochva, The Image of the Jews in Greek Literature

Bezalel Bar-Kochva, The Image of the Jews in Greek Literature: The Hellenistic Period. Hellenistic Culture and Society 51. Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 2010. Pp. xiv, 606. ISBN 9780520253360. $95.00.

Reviewed by Jed Wyrick, California State University, Chico (


This volume treats surviving passages about Jews written from 333 B.C.E. - 63 B.C.E. by Gentile Greek authors. It provides remarkable depth to materials that, as a result of the format of previous commentaries and compendia, are often read as discrete, de-contextualized artifacts. It also challenges the prevailing scholarly narrative about these passages, claiming that there was little early admiration of the Jews and no steady increase in its opposite in response to historical events.

One of this work’s virtues, its insistence that “no reference to the Jews in Hellenistic literature should be interpreted in isolation from its context” (p. 146), is closely tied to its principal flaw: its overconfident historical reconstruction of the context of each passage and frequent recourse to an argumentum ex silentio. The work also over-utilizes source criticism as a means to resolve difficulties in each passage rather than making reasonable efforts to consider these difficulties as the result of attempts by ancient historians and ethnographers to reconcile their esteemed sources with new information.

UPDATE (10 July): More here.

Happy Purim!

HAPPY PURIM to all those celebrating. The festival begins tonight at sundown.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Arab protests over Jerusalem to be taken to The Hague?

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH (ETC.): Arab protests over Jerusalem to be taken to The Hague?
Experts prepare to take Jerusalem case to The Hague

By Taylor Luck
(Jordan Times)

AMMAN - Arab experts on Wednesday took the first steps towards taking international legal action against Israel for ongoing excavations near the old city of Jerusalem.

The City of David Project seems particularly to be at issue. The claims that Israelis are excavating under the Al Aqsa Mosque keep being repeated, but I have never seen them substantiated. See, for example, here. While, on the contrary, the Waqf's illicit digging on the Temple Mount is well established. See, for example, here.

Losing the "Lost Town"?


A plan to build a vacation village on part of an archaeological site in the Negev has locals up in arms.

By Ran Shapira (Haaretz)

Yehuda D. Nevo, an archaeologist from Midreshet Sde Boker who excavated the site in the 1980s, found dozens of structures made of local stone in the streambed. His findings indicate the settlement dates back to the late Byzantine period (the 6th century, C.E. ), and was populated by Arab nomads. In contrast to the surrounding society, which became Christian between the 4th and 6th centuries C.E., he believed the inhabitants here remained pagans, before converting in the 7th century to Islam.

Nevo, who died in 1994, attributed ritual significance to the site, but the Israel Antiquities Authority rejects his interpretation. "This was a Muslim farming settlement from the 7th and 8th centuries C.E.," says Yoram Haimi, the organization's archaeologist for the southern district.
But the developers promise to preserve the ancient architecture.

New book: The RIng of Solomon

SOLOMON THE MAGICIAN and the Queen of Sheba figure in the new novel The Ring of Solomon by Bartimaeus.

Review of Soskice, The Sisters of Sinai

THE SISTERS OF SINAI by Janet Soskice, is reviewed by Rebecca Cook in Islands

Haven't heard much about this book for a while. For more reviews go here and follow the links.

Bright Spark Destroyer - The Dead Sea Scrolls


Catchy song. More on it here.

Harrak, Syriac and Garshuni Inscriptions of Iraq


2 - Syriac and Garshuni Inscriptions of Iraq by HARRAK (A.). 2 vol. (17.5 x 23) : Texte de 735 p., album de 279 pl. photo., 2010, (2060 g) 150 Euros
On the Hugoye list Fran├žoise Briquel-Chatonnet posts an English translation of the description.

BMCR Review: Kraft, Exploring the Scripturesque

Robert A. Kraft, Exploring the Scripturesque: Jewish Texts and Their Christian Contexts. Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, 137. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2009. Pp. ix, 313. ISBN $147.00. $9789004170100.

Reviewed by David Lincicum, Mansfield College, University of Oxford (


Electronic versions of these essays available on Kraft’s homepage.

In this collection of previously published essays, Kraft presents a series of his most significant contributions to the methodological problems and possibilities of investigating Jewish texts that were transmitted, preserved, read and sometimes interpolated by Christian tradents. Part One examines ‘general context and methodology’ in five essays; the remainder of the book is devoted to specific studies of some texts from the so-called ‘pseudepigrapha’ (though Kraft wants to dispute the usefulness of the term), as well as particular problems in the Dialogue of Timothy and Aquila, Pliny the Elder, Philo of Alexandria and Flavius Josephus.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

James of Edessa on the Old Testament Apocrypha

APOCRYPHA WATCH: Roger Pearse has a quotation from James of Edessa on the Old Testament Apocrypha.

More obituaries for Donny George

AFP: Donny George: Iraqi who fought to recover antiquities.

The Telegraph: Donny George
Donny George, who died on March 11 aged 60, was an Iraqi archaeologist who, following the 2003 invasion, fought a brave battle to prevent looters ransacking the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad, then led efforts to recover thousands of stolen artefacts.
Earlier obituaries/notices here and here.

Libya's Cultural Gems in Danger

PHOENICIAN/PUNIC WATCH: Libya's Cultural Gems in Danger (
It started with Tunisia and spread all across the region. Overthrowing dictators seems to be on the agenda, and while civilians fight for their freedom, the cultural treasures of their countries are in danger.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Still more on "the Son of Man" from Larry Hurtado

STILL MORE ON THE "SON OF MAN" from Larry Hurtado.

Background here.

Jeff W. Childers visits St. Catherine's Monastery

JEFF W. CHILDERS blogs an account of his visit to St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai to study Syriac manuscripts of Chrysostom's biblical commentaries: Out of Egypt.

(Via Tommy Wasserman at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog.)

Some background on St. Catherine's can be found here and here.

NYT obituary for Donny George

AN OBITUARY FOR DONNY GEORGE in the NYT: Donny George, Protector of Iraq’s Ancient Riches, Dies at 60.

New book in Mandarin on ancient Jewish coins

A CHINESE CHEF has published a new book on ancient Jewish coins in Mandarin:
Chinese chef’s main course: Ancient Jewish coins

By SHULA KOPF (Jerusalem Post)
03/14/2011 22:24

Xu Long, head chef at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, has literally written the book on Israeli coins.

One of the most passionate collectors of Israeli coins is the head chef in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. When Xu Long isn’t cooking Peking duck for visiting heads of state, he devotes his time to researching the history of Jewish coins.

It took him 10 years of painstaking study, but last November Xu Long published a 575-page hard-back on the subject, Money of Ancient Judea and Israel.

Ironically, his book, which is in Mandarin, is one of the most wide-ranging on the subject in any language.

“His book starts with the first coins ever minted in Judea during the Persian period in the fourth century BCE and goes up to the Jerusalem of Gold 24-carat bullion coin launched last year by the Bank of Israel,” says Arthur Boxer, CEO of the Israel Coins and Medals Corporation (ICMC). “He explains the story behind each coin.”


A seismograph for ancient earthquakes

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: A seismograph for ancient earthquakes (Science Blog).
Prof. Shmuel Marco of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences in the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences and his colleagues have invented a new tool which he describes as a “fossil seismograph,” to help geophysicists and other researchers understand patterns of seismic activity in the past.

Inspired by a strange “wave” phenomenon he studied in disturbed sediment in the Dead Sea region, Prof. Marco says the new tool, developed with input from geologists and physicists, is relevant to areas where earthquakes affect bodies of water, like the West Coast of the United States. It also can help engineers understand what’s at risk when they plan new hydroelectric power plants. The new research was published in the journal Geology.


A TRAVEL PIECE ON QUMRAN is the first installment of a new column in the Jerusalem Post by Wayne Stiles. The column is standard media Qumran fare: substantially accurate but exaggerates the support for the Massoretic Text among the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls. But it's odd that a Jerusalem Post columnist thinks the English spelling of the site is "Kumran."

Monday, March 14, 2011

AWOL: open-access Coptic studies bulletin


Old but interesting articles from AJBA

ROB BRADSHAW'S BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY BLOG has been providing numerous links to pdf files of interesting articles from the Australian Journal of Biblical Archaeology from the late 60s and early 70s.

"Lost" Kuntillet Ajrud inscriptions found?

THAT "LOST" INSCRIPTION from Kuntillet Ajrud may not be lost any longer. Hershel Shanks discusses the Kuntillet Ajrud finds in the article "Another unexpected surprise from the Egyptian revolution" in the Jerusalem Post. It seems that they were among the Sinai artifacts turned over by the Israelis to the Egyptian Government in the 1979 peace agreement. Hershel reports:
Then on March 3, the Egyptian press reported that 30 truckloads of antiquities had been moved for safekeeping from the Qantara storage facilities to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Included were “Sinai artifacts that were retrieved from Israel following the signing of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.”

So we now know where they are. Whether they will ever be exhibited in Egypt is another question. (Wouldn’t it be nice if they were lent for exhibition to an Israeli museum?) And what steps, if any, are being taken to conserve these fragile, faint and delicate drawings and inscriptions?
It is an inference that the Kuntillet Ajrud inscriptions are among these 30 truckloads of antiquities, but a reasonable one. I hope that they turn up and prove to be undamaged. And that they really are published this year.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

AINA obituary for Donny George


Background here.

Review of Halperin, Journal of a UFO Investigator

JOURNAL OF A UFO INVESTIGATOR, by David Halperin, is reviewed by Bill Eichenberger in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Excerpt:
To enjoy "Journal of a UFO Investigator" one must not only suspend disbelief; it helps to be open to the question: What is reality? Mr. Halperin's novel is as much a philosophic treatise as it is a voyage through fantastical worlds.
Earlier reviews etc. here.

New book: Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist

BRANT PITRE, author of the new book Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper, is interviewed by the Catholic News Agency: New book connects the Eucharist with its Jewish roots.