Saturday, July 16, 2011

Liberties taken with the Book of Enoch?

Ignition describes El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron as a "retelling of the Book of Enoch," except the team have "taken some liberties" with the material.
Do tell.

Background here.

Steven Weitzman, "Solomon: The Lure of Wisdom"

THE SOLOMON LEGEND is the subject of a new book:
King Solomon: Stanford scholar considers how the man who had everything ended with nothing

Scholar Steven Weitzman's new book on Solomon is a meditation on the "lust to know." But how much can we really know about the legendary king who was the first Faust and inspired the voyage of Columbus?

BY CYNTHIA HAVEN (Stanford Report)

What can we learn from the wisest man who ever lived?

Maybe not as much as we think, according to Stanford Jewish studies scholar Steven Weitzman.

His new book, Solomon: The Lure of Wisdom (Yale University Press) has been called a meditation on the "lust to know." Yet it's curious we know so little about the man at the center of the book. We don't even know what Solomon looked like, though Biblical writers note that his father and siblings were handsome.

One thing he is famous for, though: "According to Jewish tradition, he knew everything. He knew as much as God knew," said Weitzman, a professor of Jewish culture and religion. "As a scholar, I'm attracted to knowing everything. Because I feel I don't know anything."

Hence, the book. "It was a lot of fun," Weitzman said of the work he calls "an unauthorized biography."

It does sound like fun.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception

RELEGERE: Studies in Religion and Reception is a new open-access online journal on reception history.

(Via the BNTS list.)

Rollston on the Mariam Ossuary again

CHRISTOPHER ROLLSTON has a new blog post on the Miriam/Mariam ossuary inscription: ‘Priests’ or ‘Priest’ in the Mariam (Miriam) Ossuary, and the Language of the Inscription.

His earlier post on this inscription is noted here. Also, two reviews of Professor Rollston's new book Writing and Literacy in the World of Ancient Israel: Epigraphic Evidence from the Iron Age have just been published by Johannes Schnocks and Ian Young in the Review of Biblical Literature.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Controversy over Syriac names in Turkey

Turkey’s Syriacs demanding right to own names

Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Vercihan Ziflioğlu
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News

Turkey’s Syriac community, who adopted Turkish surnames, now want their original surnames back. Yet, a top cour says that the laws don’t allow such a move.

Members of Turkey’s Syriac Christian community are leading a legal struggle to adopt last names that reflect their identity despite a Constitutional Court ruling earlier this year that barred one Syriac from altering his last name.

The issue may be brought to the attention of the European Court of Human Rights.

(HT Abu 'l-Rayhan Al-Biruni.)

"The Magdalene" gets unenthusiastic reviews

THE MAGDALENE, now playing Off-Broadway, is getting unenthusiastic reviews.

From the NYT:
A Married, Reimagined Jesus

Published: July 12, 2011

The creators of “The Magdalene,” a musical based on an alternate telling of the story of Mary Magdalene, have achieved the seemingly impossible: they have managed to take stunningly incendiary material and douse it with blandness and bathos.

From the New York Press:
Oh, Mary
Mary Magdalene gets the superstar treatment in a new musical

By Mark Peikert

Forget the prostitute we all love, the one who belts “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” in Jesus Christ Superstar. According to The Magdalene (and the Gnostic texts left out of the Bible as we know it), Mary Magdalene was a feisty spitfire with a Mia Farrow pixie cut, who questioned the treatment of women by church officials and society and turns out to have known how to love Jesus all along. She also likes to belt out a few tunes herself, though none of them as catchy as the ones in the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Time Rice musical.

There’s very little that’s catchy in this new musical, staged in the round at Theater at St. Clement’s, a choice that makes the piece feel more amateurish than it might otherwise. ...
I don't recall the pixie cut from the Gnostic gospels, but it's been a while since I read them.

Background here (bottom of post).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Teologías, Escrituras, y Siberia

THIS BLOG by Tomás García-Huidobro has been around since late 2009, but I've only just found it: Teologías, Escrituras, y Siberia: Temprano misticismo judío, cristiano y gnóstico como medios para iluminar los origenes cristianos.

Jewish artifacts at the ROM (with aside on fake metal codices)

THE ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM has a new exhibition with items of interest:
Jewish artifacts are displayed in a new ROM gallery
By SHELDON KIRSHNER, Staff Reporter (Canadian Jewish News)
Thursday, 14 July 2011

TORONTO —The Royal Ontario Museum has unveiled an ensemble of four new galleries on the ancient empires of Rome, Byzantium and Nubia, all sup­plemented by videos shot on location in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Ring with a menorah

Janet Carding, the director and chief ex­ecutive officer of the museum, said this was “a key moment” for the Toronto museum.

These civilizations span 2,500 years of history and had a lasting influence on art, esthetics, architecture and religion, said Carding.

The galleries – which add ap­prox­i­mately 7,000 square feet of exhibit space to the museum – were open­ed on July 1.

The new galleries consist of the Eaton Gallery of Rome, the Joey and Toby Ta­nen­baum Gallery of Byzantium, the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Gallery of Rome and the Near East, and the Gal­leries of Af­rica: Nubia.

Several Jewish objects from an­cient Pa­lestine are ex­hi­bited in the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Gallery of By­zan­tium – a jar with a menorah, a ring with a men­orah, etrog and lulav and a bread stamp with a menorah and cross.

They date back to the period from 300 to 614 CE.

The jar and the ring were most likely made for Jews visiting holy sites in Jeru­salem.

The bread stamp engraved with a menorah and a cross is extremely rare because the portrayal of images was considered idolatrous, said Paul Denis, the assistant curator of the Greek and Roman collections.

The ring is quite interesting. Could it be another inspiration for the fake metal codices (follow those links)?

Below: genuine early-Byzantine metal ring with seven-branched menorah. Note the etrog on the lower left and the lulav (palm branch) on the lower right.Below: fake metal codex. Note the seven-branched menorah on the lower left. And could that wreath under it be partly inspired by the etrog and lulav on the image above?

Just a thought.

KJB@400: Dead Sea Scroll at Oklahoma City exhibit

KJB@400 WATCH: More on the exhibition at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art:
OKC Museum of Art: "Passages" exhibit

Brianna Joyce, Oklahoma City Travel Examiner
July 12, 2011

This season's special exhibit at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art is truly incredible. Art aficionados, bibliophiles, young and old, and members of all faiths will enjoy the Passages exhibit celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible. Passages explores the Bible's history from its origins in Jewish scripture to its important English translation under King James.

For those interested in exploring the story behind each artifact, the exhibit provides headphones that give detailed explanations for many scrolls and books. The tour begins with a stunning collection of containers that held scrolls of the Torah. There is also a stone menorah that stood in the Temple of Jerusalem at the time of Christ. The beautiful lines of Hebrew are preserved on parchment, and a glass case contains a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

No word on which Dead Sea Scroll is exhibited, and the exhibition website is no more forthcoming.

Background here.

UPDATE (19 July): The fragment is of Genesis 32:3-7. More here.

The Magdala Center and archaeological site

THE MAGDALA CENTER and archaeological site are the subject of a Travel piece in the Jerusalem Post:
Archaeological site inspires gospel reminiscing

07/12/2011 17:49

The Magdala Center's new guesthouse, along with a uniquely written Catholic mass will bring to life New Testament times in the Galilee.

A new guesthouse, an archaeological site and a uniquely written Catholic mass will bring to life New Testament times in the Galilee.

The Magdala Center, Notre Dame Pontifical Institute's planned guesthouse, is on the shores of the Galilee and hosts a peek into the time of Jesus. Even though the Gospels barely mention the city, Magdala (or Migdal) played a historic role in the 1st century as revealed in the ongoing archaeological dig on the site.


The entire archaeological area uncovered is exclusively 1st century, which is rare. Most sites, even those nearby, usually show an overlap of periods. This one so far is purely Roman era. It has also revealed a community that was likely very wealthy.

“In this synagogue they had a great leader – not common, very rich,” he said.

[Father Juan Maria] Solana listed some of the impressive findings in the excavations including a synagogue, a marketplace, a villa, a perfectly preserved mosaic, rooms paved with well-cut stones and three arches, one of which is still standing. The synagogue contains mosaics, a carved stone menorah and frescoes.

Another key find is the port of Magdala, some 50 meters from the current shoreline and near the marketplace. On one side of the port is all the remnants of the lake that had lapped against the wall.

Background here and links.

Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance gets building permit

Museum of Tolerance gets final go-ahead

By MELANIE LIDMAN (Jerusalem Post)
07/13/2011 02:23

The building permit was awarded by the Interior Ministry, rather than the Jerusalem Municipality, due to the sensitivity of the site.
Talkbacks (1)

After more than a decade of sitting empty in downtown Jerusalem, the controversial Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance received final approval for its new campus on Tuesday.

The building permit, from the Ministry of the Interior’s District Planning and Construction Committee, means that work can begin on the site immediately.

Background here and many links.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ancient Hebrew Shabbat boundary marker

Shabbat boundary rock with Hebrew etching discovered

By OREN KESSLER (Jerusalem Post)
07/12/2011 05:42

Inscription, discovered by chance by visitor in Lower Galilee, appears to date from the Roman or Byzantine period.

An ancient rock inscription of the word “Shabbat” was uncovered near Lake Kinneret this week – the first and only discovery of a stone Shabbat boundary in Hebrew.

The etching in the Lower Galilee community of Timrat appears to date from the Roman or Byzantine period.

News of the inscription, discovered by chance Sunday by a visitor strolling the community grounds, quickly reached Mordechai Aviam, head of the Institute for Galilean Archeology at Kinneret College.

“This is the first time we’ve found a Shabbat boundary inscription in Hebrew,” he said. “The letters are so clear that there is no doubt that the word is ‘Shabbat.’”


Benjamin Z. Kedar interviewed in Haaretz

Professor B.Z. Kedar, is Israeli archaeology an 'old-boys club'?

The Israel Antiquities Authority has been attacked for not doing enough to preserve the Temple Mount antiquities, on one hand, but also for supposedly being a tool of extreme nationalist groups.

By Nir Hasson

Prof. Benjamin Z. Kedar has been chairman of the board of the Israel Antiquities Authority for 11 years. He is also the deputy chairman of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Kedar will leave his position at the authority at the end of July. Haaretz reported yesterday on an amendment to the Antiquities Authority Law, proposed by Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, that would make it easier for her to find a replacement for Kedar. At present, the chairman of the Antiquities Authority board must belong to the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Livnat's bill would require only that the chairman be a "leading scholar in the field of history or archaeology."

Senior archaeologists criticized Livnat on Sunday, claiming that the purpose of the amendment was to enable her to appoint archaeologists who are identified with the right or who will toe the establishment line. Livnat's critics say the bill reflects the anti-intellectual winds blowing through the government ministries. Kedar rejects this interpretation, but cautions against amending the law.

He also expresses doubt that the Essenes wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls and comments on many other archaeological and political issues. Read it all.

Background to MK Livnat's proposed amendment is here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

KJB@400: Lecture series in Oklahoma City

KJB@400 WATCH: Cool lecture series in Oklahoma City:
Oklahoma City Museum speaker series connected to Bible exhibit set for debut ‘Passages' speaker series calendar

A speaker series connected to the “Passages” Bible exhibit will debut July 19 at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in downtown Oklahoma City.

Published: July 9, 2011

Renowned scholars and authorities in ancient texts and manuscripts will discuss recent research and developments during lecture presentations connected with the “Passages” exhibit at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

The “Passages” Speaker Series will begin July 19 in the Noble Theater at the museum, 415 Couch Drive.

“Passages,” a 14,000-square-foot traveling exhibit, opened in May to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. The interactive exhibit features nearly 300 items from the Green Collection, one of the world's largest private collections of rare biblical texts and artifacts.

Here is the list of lecturers and their topics:
The following guest speakers and lectures will be presented as part of the free 11-week “Passages” Speakers' Series at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 415 Couch Drive. Each lecture will be from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. Tuesdays.

• July 19: David Lyle Jeffrey, Ph.D., Baylor University, “Beyond the Renaissance: Critical Texts and Bible Translation.”

• July 26: Peter Flint, Ph.D., Canada research chair in Dead Sea Scrolls studies, “The Contents and Challenges of the Dead Sea Biblical Scrolls.”

• Aug. 9: Gordon Campbell, Ph.D., University of Leicester, United Kingdom, “The Making of a Bible Classic: The Translation of the King James Bible.”

• Aug. 16: Edwin Yamauchi, Ph.D., Miami (Fla.) University, “The Greatest Archaeological Discoveries and the Old Testament.”

• Aug. 23: Scott Carroll, Ph.D., director of the Green Collection, “The Green Collection: Scientific Breakthroughs and Bible Translation.”

• Sept. 6: Scot McKendrick, Ph.D., British Library, “Manuscript Discoveries and Bible Translation.”

• Sept. 13: Dirk Obbink, Ph.D., Oxford University, “Papyri Discoveries and Bible Translation.”

• Sept. 20: Alister McGrath, Ph.D., King's College, United Kingdom, “What Do William Tyndale and C.S. Lewis Have in Common.”

• Sept. 27: Ralph Hanna, Ph.D., Oxford University, “Richard Rolle's Impact on the English Bible.”

• Oct. 4: Jerry Pattengale, Ph.D., director of the Green Scholars Initiative, “Answers to New Theories Regarding How We Got the Bible.”

• Oct. 11: Robert Cooley, Ph.D., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, “The Greatest Archaeological Discoveries and the New Testament.”

For more information, go online to

Politics and IAA board of directors

Archaeologists: Right-wing culture minister making appointments based on politics

Top archaeologists slam Limor Livnat's bid to change make-up of Israel Antiquities Authority's board of directors, say move will allow her to appoint officials identified with the political right.

By Nir Hasson (Haaretz)

Senior archaeologists are up in arms over an amendment to the Antiquities Authority Law proposed by Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat , which they say will shift the political slant of the Israel Antiquities Authority's board of directors to the right.

Critics say Livnat has proposed the legislation to prevent the appointment of Prof. Yoram Tsafrir as chairman of the board of directors of the authority and to allow her to instead appoint archaeologists identified with the political right. Opponents of the bill also say Livnat has also been changing the makeup of the country's senior archaeological body, the Archaeological Council, which advises the director of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the minister who oversees the Israel Antiquities Authority.


Livnat's amendment states that the minister "would appoint a senior scientist from the realm of history or archaeology, after consultation with the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities."

The explanatory notes accompanying Livnat's bill state: "The law currently obliges the minister to choose from a limited list of scientists, while in fact there are many worthy candidates who are not members of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities."

Over the past year,three new members were appointed to the Archaeological Council: Dr. Gabriel Barkay, Dr. Ronny Reich and Dr. Eilat Mazar. All three are known for their work in excavations funded by Elad in East Jerusalem. Reich was elected head of the council.

Archaeologists critical of Livnat's moves also say scholars from Bar-Ilan University have a greater representation on the Archaeological Council than other universities.

Livnat replies:
"The source of this limitation is a law going back 33 years. Since then, the number of archaeologists and historians who are senior researchers has increased significantly and there is not reason to prevent worthy candidates from heading the board. ... It seems that claims against opening up the appointment to additional worthy candidates stems from extraneous interests and the desire to force a certain appointment as chairman of the board."
UPDATE (12 July): More here.

Iraqi Jewish archives update

IRAQI JEWISH ARCHIVE WATCH: Tug-of-war over Iraqi Jewish trove in US hands (AP). Lots of new information, especially about the web of politics in which the archive is now snarled. But the good news is that $3 million has be set aside for the restoration of the manuscripts.

(HT Gerald Rosenberg. Background here and follow the many links back to 2003.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

BMCR review responses and reviews

BMCR review responses and reviews:

First, two responses to this review from March:

Bar-Kochva on Wyrick on Bar-Kochva, The Image of the Jews in Greek Literature.

Pelling on Bar-Kochva on Wyrick on Bar-Kochva.

Then, a couple of recent review of possible interest:
Daniel C. Snell, Religions of the Ancient Near East. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. xii, 179. ISBN 9780521683364. $25.99 (pb).

Reviewed by Corinne Bonnet, Université de Toulouse II – Le Mirail & Institut Universitaire de France (


Présenter l’ensemble des religions du Proche-Orient en 179 pages est un défi. Daniel C. Snell l’a courageusement relevé et propose à ses lecteurs une synthèse agréable à lire qui balaie les principales thématiques, aires géographiques et périodes en 17 chapitres. La qualité majeure de cet ouvrage est la conjonction entre une érudition vaste et profonde et une présentation accessible aux non spécialistes. Certes, parfois, on y perd en précision ou l’on tombe dans certaines généralisations que les spécialistes regretteront, mais l’objectif est de fournir un premier panorama que les indications bibliographiques permettront, le cas échéant, d’approfondir.


Dominique Charpin, Writing, Law, and Kingship in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia (translated by Jane Marie Todd). Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2010. Pp. 182. ISBN 9780226101583. $55.00.

Reviewed by Rochelle Altman, Sivan College (


In Classical studies, since the 1990s, it has become increasingly clear that literacy was more widespread in society than had been previously thought. While many Assyriologists maintain that literacy was the exclusive domain of professional scribes and even kings, clergy, and generals are classed among the illiterate, Dominique Charpin has come to similar conclusions about Classical Babylonia. In this volume, Charpin focuses on the relationship between writing and law and, as we could expect from his previous works, makes a strong and convincing case for writing as a more wide-spread phenomenon than has been assumed.


A Metatron schism?

AN IMPENDING METATRON SCHISM? El Shaddai will be 'divisive' in America, says Ignition. That can happen.

Background here and links.