Saturday, June 25, 2011

More on the fake metal codices from Daniel McClellan

FAKE METAL CODICES WATCH: Daniel O. McClellan has More Jordan Lead Codices Photos and Info, from someone who claims to be Ilan Shibli. Lots of interesting new information, none of which gives us any reason to think the codices are genuine. Daniel comments:
That the images on these plates are modern productions is, in my opinion, pretty much beyond dispute. Dr. Northover’s analysis supports an ancient provenance for the lead, but as others have pointed out, and as he stated in a note to me, there is quite a bit of ancient lead lying around, and the composition of the lead does not necessarily indicate the antiquity of the codices.
He also notes that Mr. Elkington is offering photos for sale and Russian site has some good preview images. Note especially this scroll image, which is the first decent image of one of the lead scrolls I have seen. I allowed the possibility here that the scrolls could be something different from the main cache and could conceivably even be genuine. But this photo shows this scroll to have a menorah like the ones on the plates of the main cache (Elkington notes this too in his rambling, odd "report" to which Daniel links), which means it is probably fake too.

Background here and follow the many links back.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ophel excavation controversy

Politics get mixed up with archaeology in dispute over Solomon's Silwan wall

The excavations near the Temple Mount's eastern wall in an area known as the Ophel continued on and off for decades.

By Nir Hasson Tags: Jerusalem Palestinians (Haaretz)

An archaeological site dedicated in Jerusalem this week consists of a section of an ancient wall built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C.E., says the archaeologist who dug up the wall. Other archaeologists, however, disagree with the date and implications and object to what they call the political use of archaeology.

Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who dug up the site, hopes opening it to the public will be a turning point in the debate about whether David and Solomon's Kingdom of Israel existed or not.

Mazar, Israel Finkelstein, and Yoni Mizrachi weigh in.

I'm not an archaeologist and don't really have a horse in this race. But if I were, I think my normal caution would keep me from saying a whole lot about Solomon until we find a royal inscription at the site which mentions him. Then again, I suppose that's the epigrapher in me talking.

(HT Joseph Lauer).

Background here.

SBL session on the future of biblical studies

AN SBL SESSION ON The Future of Biblical Studies: What Research Still Needs to Be Done? has been organized by Patrick George McCullough for the November meetings in San Francisco.

Good question! Reception history is very big right now. And there is a surprising amount of basic textual criticism that still needs to be done, although this involves very technical work. Some of it involves working with Armenian or Ethiopic or the like, but there's quite a lot of work still to do on the Greek Septuagint. And as for cognate fields dear to my heart, the Dead Sea Scrolls are fully published, but critical analysis of them still has a long way to go, and many Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and New Testament Apocrypha still cry out for good critical editions, let alone further study.

I'm sure there's much more, but that's what occurs to me off the top of my head.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Duane Smith on Jerusalem/Salem.

DUANE SMITH challenges the view that Jerusalem was once called "Salem." And he has some interesting philology on his side.

This in reference to yesterday's story involving the recently discovered Jerusalem cuneiform tablet.

UPDATE (6/24/11): John Hobbins: Jerusalem was called Salem. Well it was!

Hebrew and the NT scholar

KEVIN BROWN reflects on John Byron's post on Hebrew and the New Testament Scholar. Kudos to John for keeping his Hebrew up. Now, guys, what about Aramaic?

CAL back online

THE COMPREHENSIVE ARAMAIC LEXICON is back online. The site was hacked some time ago.

Denial of Jewish history by former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem

JEWISH-TEMPLE (ETC.) DENIAL WATCH: The former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem is currently indulging in wholesale denial of Jewish history in Palestine, evidently in response to the recent opening of the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park:
Not one stone found relating to Jerusalem’s alleged Jewish history

Chairman of the Suprerme Islamic Council in Jerusalem Dr. Ekrima Sabri has declared that after twenty-five years of digging, archaeologists are unanimous that not a single stone has been found related to Jerusalem’s alleged Jewish history.

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - Chairman of the Suprerme Islamic Council in Jerusalem Dr. Ekrima Sabri has declared that after twenty-five years of digging, archaeologists are unanimous that not a single stone has been found related to Jerusalem’s alleged Jewish history.

Sheikh Sabri said Israel’s opening of a Biblical park south of Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem was only a further attempt to erase the Arab-Islamic identity of the region, Sabri said.

Israeli authorities have been building the Biblical park atop the Umayyad palaces in Jerusalem. But Sabri said that archaeologists agree that the stones along the southern wall of Al-Aqsa Mosque are remains of the Umayyad palaces, proving that the entire area is an Islamic endowment.

“We do not recognize any change to the status of Jerusalem, and we reserve our religious, historic, geographic, and cultural heritage in the city, no matter how long or how many generations succeed,” Sabri said.

More on Dr. Ekrima Sabri here and here and links.

I have responded to these bogus historical claims here and here and often elsewhere in PaleoJudaica.

Cross-file under "Junk History."

UPDATE (6/24/11): Todd Bolin has some trenchant commentary.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Conference: Family and Kinship in the Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature

CONFERENCE (starts on 27 June): Family and Kinship in the Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature, in Palermo, Italy. Papers on the Old Testament Apocrypha, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

SBL 2011 preliminary program book now available

THE PRELIMINARY PROGRAM BOOK for the November meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco is now available in searchable format.

(Via kata ta biblia.)

New archaeological displays in Jerusalem

First Temple period archeological site unveiled in J'lem

06/21/2011 17:25

Scholars believe area is the Water Gate mentioned in the Bible; activists denounce site's focus on Israeli history only.

A large complex of ruins from the First Temple period called the Ophel City Walls Site was inaugurated on Tuesday in the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park, showcasing one of the most complete excavations from the First Temple period and the area believed to be the Water Gate mentioned in the Bible.

The site, which was uncovered by Hebrew University’s Dr. Eilat Mazar, contains mikvaot (ritual baths), store rooms, a watchtower, and royal buildings, where archeologists found dozens of large clay pots of various sizes.


Also on Tuesday, a fragment of the earliest written document ever discovered in Jerusalem was unveiled. The two-centimeter fragment was discovered by Mazar’s team in the area, and dates from the late Bronze Age. Experts believe that the fragment, written in Akkadian cuneiform script, seems to be a copy of a letter sent from the city to an Egyptian King, when the city was still called Salem. The fragment was unveiled at its permanent exhibit in the Davidson Center.

More on that cuneiform fragment and the Ophel excavation here and here and links.

Also, Arutz Sheva has video of the Ophel Wall site at New: Walk Through the Digs Under the Old City. For that hoard of 264 gold coins, also excavated in Jerusalem (but not at the Ophel site), see here and links.

UPDATE (23 June): The former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem has a predictable response, plus Duane Smith raises a philological challenge to the comment above on the name "Salem" for Jerusalem.

Monday, June 20, 2011

More Hekhalot exegesis from Jared Calaway

MORE HEKHALOT EXEGESIS from Jared Calaway. Once I get a few other things out of the way, I hope by early July, I should be able to turn my attention back to my translation of the Hekhalot texts. Then I may be able to join in sometimes.

Claremont Coptic Encyclopedia

AWOL: Open Access Encyclopedia: Claremont Coptic Encyclopedia. Looks like a very useful resource.

New book: Morgenstern, "Studies in Jewish Babylonian Aramaic ..."

Studies in Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Based Upon Early Eastern Manuscripts

by Matthew Morgenstern
Harvard Semitic Studies - HSS 62

Eisenbrauns, 2011

List Price: $44.95
Your Price: $41.80
You save: $3.15

This book is the first wide-ranging study of the grammar of the Babylonian Aramaic used in the Talmud and post-Talmudic Babylonian literature (henceforth: Rabbinic Babylonian Aramaic) to be published in English in a century. The book takes as its starting point the long-recognized problem of the corrupt nature of the later textual witnesses of Babylonian Rabbinic literature and seeks both to establish criteria for the identification of accurate textual witnesses and describe the grammar of Rabbinic Babylonian Aramaic. The book is both programmatic and descriptive: it lays the foundations for future research into the dialect while clarifying numerous points of grammar, many of which have not been discussed systematically in the available scholarly literature.

Following a critical survey of the currently available scholarly tools, the book considers the rĂ´le of the Yemenite textual and reading traditions in the study of Rabbinic Babylonian Aramaic. While some previous authorities have regarded this tradition as a primary source for grammatical study of the dialect, by comparing the data of the earliest manuscripts to the forms employed in the Yemenite traditions, the present book demonstrates that the Yemenite traditions have been subject to secondary changes. Accordingly, it is concluded here that only the early eastern manuscripts preserve the dialect in its original form.

The next chapter considers the problem of linguistic variation within the corpus. It is well established that the Talmudic literature employs a wide range of alternative grammatical forms. Several explanations have been proposed for this phenomenon. Some authorities have suggested that it arises from dialectal differences, while others have proposed that it represents the use of different literary registers. An alternative explanation is that the language was altered during the course of textual transmission. This study shows that none of these explanations can account for the wide extent of the phenomenon, which is found in the best textual witnesses and in ostensibly uniform contexts. It is argued that all of proposed explanations may partially account for the interchanges but, ultimately, the lack of a literary standard leads to the use of different forms.

Syntax is often regarded as being one of the linguistic areas least affected by textual transmission. However, the early manuscripts show that Rabbinic Babylonian Aramaic employs a defined series of syntactic structures to mark the direct object. This clearly defined complimentary distribution is lost in the later textual witnesses, which use the structures interchangeably. It is thus shown that, for syntactic study, too, only a small group of textual witnesses can be regarded as reliable.

Product Details

Publisher: Eisenbrauns
Publication date: 2011
Bibliographic info: xx + 289 pages
Language(s): English

Cover: Cloth
Trim Size: 6 x 9 inches
ISBN: 1-57506-938-5
ISBN13: 978-1-57506-938-8
Cross-file under "Aramaic Watch."

Conference on Targums & Second Temple Period

CONFERENCE: The Targums in light of Traditions of the Second Temple Period; 27-28 June, University of Strasbourg.

Cross-file under "Aramaic Watch."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

An English-to-Akkadian dictionary

An English to Akkadian Companion to the Assyrian Dictionaries

By Mark E. Cohen

This reference book is an English-to-Akkadian dictionary of the Assyrian and Babylonian language, based on the entries in the three published Akkadian dictionaries: "The University of Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, " "A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian," and the "Assyrian-English-Assyrian Dictionary." Entries are organized also by synonym and category.

Pages: 250

Price: $50.00
This will be handy for your Akkadian composition course.

(Via the Agade list.)

UPDATE (20 June): Pete Bekins comments at balshanut. I think I have that older English-Akkadian index somewhere in my files too.

Ancient graffiti in Israel

ARAMAIC WATCH: Aramaic is "the little black dress of Semitic languages."
Archaeologists Unscramble Ancient Graffiti In Israel

by Jacki Lyden (NPR)

June 19, 2011

Aramaic is the lingua franca of the ancient Middle East, the linguistic root of modern day Hebrew and Arabic.

"Once you understand Aramaic," says Karen Stern, "you can read anything. You can read Hebrew, you can read Phoenician. I always call it the little black dress of Semitic languages."

Stern, 35, is an archaeologist and an assistant professor in the history department at Brooklyn College. Her passion is the tomb graffiti of the ancient Jews in what was then Roman Palestine. Graffiti has been "published, but sort of disregarded," she says. "Whereas I think it is intimate, vocal and spontaneous, and adds to the historical record."

In this, Stern seems to be supported by scholars: She is completing a yearlong fellowship at the W.F. Albright Institute for Archaeological Research in Jerusalem.

Nitpick: Aramaic is cognate with Hebrew and Arabic but is not ancestral to either. It is a linguistic branch on the same tree, not the root.

On Prof. Stern's work at the site of Beth She'arim:
Listening To The Dead

It's in the Cave of Coffins that Stern points to two inscriptions in ancient Greek. They are tiny and clustered near niches once holding oil lamps.

One says, "Take courage, Holy Parents of Pharcitae, udes adonitas — no one is immortal." Stern explains that the dead who are being brought into the catacombs shouldn't feel that they are weak just because they've passed on.

She reads aloud the other inscription: "Good luck on your resurrection."

"Of course, resurrection is not in the Jewish tradition," says Emma Maayan Fanar, a professor of Byzantine art at the University of Haifa, who has teamed up with Stern. "It's very uncommon."

Tiny menorahs are scattered as engravings throughout the tomb, a symbol of the Temple in Jerusalem and a symbol of the endurance of the Jewish faith.

There are magical spells in Greek. There are also curses in Aramaic that threaten a bad fate to the tomb robber. Those seem to have been ignored, as only the graffiti and heavy stone coffins are left.

In the dark, the effect — particularly in these tiny messages — is to hear the dead speaking. It's peaceful, but lively. One gets the sense of a giant Facebook page of the ancient world.
Read it all. This is important work. Only rarely to we get to hear the voices of the regular people of antiquity, since most of what was passed down in writing was produced by the elite.

(Via Tom Verenna on Facebook.)

UPDATE (20 June): Jared Calaway brings in the zombies.

Also, in an e-mail, Joseph Lauer comments: "As some reader's comments following the article noted, the following sentence is not accurate: 'Of course, resurrection is not in the Jewish tradition,' says Emma Maayan Fanar, a professor of Byzantine art at the University of Haifa, who has teamed up with Stern. 'It's very uncommon.'" Perhaps it's uncommon in Jewish graffiti of the period; I don't know. But it is certainly a widespread idea in Jewish literature of the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Targuman interviewed by Chronicle of Higher Education

DEAN CHRISTIAN BRADY, a.k.a. Targuman (cited in immediately preceding post) is interviewed by the Chronicle of Higher Education about his use of blogging and Facebook:
'It's Not Schizophrenic'

Christian Brady, an associate professor of classics and ancient Mediterranean studies and Jewish studies at Pennsylvania State University, has split his social-media identity, as Ms. Feal does. "It's not schizophrenic and it's not to hide anything," he said. Both of his Twitter feeds are public, and he expects that someone who searches for his name on Google will quickly find both his personal feed, @targuman, and the one he uses for his role as dean of the university's Schreyer Honors College, @shcdean.

Deciding which account to post to is a matter of considering his audience, he says. Those looking to hear from the honors-college dean may have no interest in his research into Targums (ancient Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible), or in his collection of comic books. "I wouldn't call them multiple identities, but views or perspectives on yourself," is how he puts it.

Though Facebook was born only a few years ago, Mr. Brady says scholars have long made adjustments in their public personae: "If you're writing an op-ed piece for the local newspaper, you're going to use a different tone than if you're writing for a journal in your discipline."
A lot of my Facebook posts are just notices of interesting PaleoJudaica posts. Others note ancient history or technology items not directly relevant to PaleoJudaica. Most of the rest have to do with zombies. But then the article does point out that zombies can be a problem on Facebook.