Saturday, August 06, 2011

A Jewish warrior queeen

His/Her Story: A Jewish warrior queen

08/05/2011 16:18 By RENÉE LEVINE MELAMMED (Jerusalem Post)

The story of the Jewish Berber queen, her success as a warrior, and her own destruction.

With the rise of Islam in the seventh century, Arab tribes sought to conquer North Africa and continue to Europe via Spain. The major obstacle to a conquest of the Magreb was the presence of a Berber queen in the mountains of presentday Algeria. Her tribe, the Gerawa, had converted to Judaism earlier in the century; their queen, Dahia al-Kahena, daughter of Mathia ben Tifan, either converted with them or was Jewish by birth.

This era signaled the end of the Byzantine dynasty in a geographical area that was home to Byzantines, Arabs and Jews, as well as Christian Berbers. The fathers of Kahena’s two sons were equally diverse, for one was Berber and the other Greek.

I didn't know about Kahena. Slightly outside PaleoJudaica's normal time frame, but interesting enough to stretch the definition of "late antiquity" to include her. This in particular caught my eye:
Interestingly enough, Kahena is sometimes referred to as an augur; according to Arab lore, Hassan was destined to destroy a Jewish soothsayer before he could proceed apace. The meaning of this queen’s name has been debated for years, as to whether it means catastrophe, a major problem or a sly person. “Kahena” could be derived from “kohen,” and thus would refer to a priestess, a prophetess or even a wizard. Perhaps she indeed lived up to her names.
A Jewish priestess is, as far as I know, unprecedented, although she doesn't seem to have a been a priestess in the biblical sense of a priest. There were Jewish prophetesses in the Bible (Deborah, Huldah) and there have been plenty of female Jewish magicians.

CSCO at Edinburgh under new management

THE CENTRE FOR THE STUDY OF CHRISTIAN ORIGINS at the University of Edinburgh is under new management. Congratulations to Helen Bond, who is an excellent choice as the new Director, and best wishes to Larry Hurtado for a happy and productive retirement.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Reviewlet: Bloom, "The Jewish Revolts Against Rome, A.D. 66-135: A Military Analysis"

BOOK REVIEWLET: The Jewish Revolts Against Rome, A.D. 66-135: A Military Analysis, by James J. Bloom, reviewed by A. A. Nofi at the Strategy Page.

Syriac news from Turkey

ARAMAIC WATCH—News on Syriac-speaking Christians in Turkey from Hürriyet Daily News:

First, congratulations to the 2011 graduates of the new Syriac course at Artuklu University:
Turkey’s first Syriac language course ends

Thursday, August 4, 2011
ISTANBUL - Anatolia News Agency

In a historic achievement, 42 participants were awarded certificates Tuesday after completing Turkey’s first Syriac language course, run by a university in the southeastern province of Mardin.

In a speech at the graduation ceremony, the rector of Artuklu University, Serdar Bedi Omay, expressed his gratitude and said being able to teach the Syriac language in universities was an important accomplishment for the school.

“This is a historic step both for us and the academia,” the rector said.

Indeed. Background here.

Second, some political developments:
Syriacs outline problems to EU, ask for removal of obstacles

Wednesday, August 3, 2011
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

A Syriac group recently presented a report on the problems of Syriac community in terms of ethnic, linguistic, religious and other rights, as well as the right of return

Turkey should remove obstacles preventing Syriacs from returning to the country and provide constitutional protection for their status and identity, according to a Syriac group that presented a report detailing the community’s problems in Turkey to the European Commission last week.


Last week, the ESU presented a report to the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Enlargement on Turkey detailing a number of problems experienced by Syriacs in Turkey in terms of ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious and other rights, as well as the right of return. The ESU also addressed the contentious topic of the “Seyfo” – the name Syriacs give to what they claim was genocide perpetrated against them by the Ottomans in 1915. The report is expected to make its way into Europe’s agenda in September.


“The case [of the Syriac Mor Gabriel Monastery in the southeastern province of Mardin] is still underway. The monastery bears great significance for Syriacs. As the European Syriac Union, we recognize that this process is a political, rather than a judicial one. This view is further clarified both by the feudal village guard organization that makes itself felt in the region, as well as by the lack of enthusiasm in Ankara’s attitude. The Mor Gabriel Monastery case is a test of democracy, good will and the project to live together,” [David] Vergili [spokesman for the European Syriac Union] said.

I have been following the case of the Mor Gabriel Monastery for some time. Background here and links.
The fact that Syriac had entered UNESCO’s list of World Languages in Danger pointed to a vital problem, he added.
I knew that Mandaic was on the list, but not Syriac in general. That's good news.
“Our community of 15,000 in Istanbul cannot set up schools and has to make do with a single church. Our region has been the center of attraction for repressive, outdated policies of annihilation and denial for decades,” he said.

Turkey’s Syriac community also cannot use their Syriac last names due to the Patronymics Law enacted in 1934, Vergili said. “Syriacs have begun using Turkish names for a lack of any other options.”

A Turkish citizen of Syriac descent, Favlus Ay, filed a lawsuit last year to change his first and last names to Syriac. Ay requested permission to change his last name to “Bartuma” and his first name to “Paulus.” The suit was filed to annul a provision in the Patronymics Law of 1934 that bars Turkish citizens from adopting foreign names. The case was first brought before a court in Mardin’s Midyat district before being passed to the High Court where the appeal was rejected, with eight judges voting in favor and nine against.
I have noted earlier coverage of the issue of Syriac names in Turkey here.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

More on the "Ancient Lives" Oxyrhynchus Papyri project


First, some background on the genesis of the project:
Research grant combines astrophysics and archeology to decipher ancient texts
July 26, 2011 By Jenny Allan (

Lucy Fortson, an astrophysicist and Associate Professor in the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota is part of a collaboration called Ancientlives which has received a grant to apply the analysis tools of astrophysics to help decipher a collection of ancient Egyptian papyri.

Co-PIs Nita Krevans and Philip Sellew, faculty members in Classical and Near Eastern Studies, will be working with Professor Fortson and an international team, including a new University of Minnesota post-doctoral fellow in papyrology, to oversee citizen transcribers who will volunteer to identify letters on these ancient scraps of books and documents.

The collection known as the Oxyrynchus Papyri was discovered over a hundred years ago yet archeologists and classics scholars have only managed to transcribe a handful of these fragments. Fortson said the papyri came from an ancient garbage dump and mundane documents such as insurance claims and contracts were mixed in with Homer and works by the ancient playwright Menander. Classics scholars originally had to rely on their personal knowledge of ancient texts in order to determine the meaning of the texts and thus far only 15% of the collection has been edited. The hope is that Ancient Lives will help complete the editing process by harnessing the brain-power of volunteers—no knowledge of ancient Greek required.

It's not too far off to say that only "a handful" of the papyri have been transcribed, but go and sit down and think about the fact that this "handful" consists of seventy-five large volumes. (A few of these are online.)

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

Second, Alan Boyle at the Cosmic Log blog has some more information about the new fragment of a lost gospel which keeps getting mentioned:
Among the items recently picked out of the pile are fragments of a previously unknown apocryphal gospel that describes Jesus casting out demons, a lost play by Euripides titled "Melanippe the Wise" and newfound letters attributed to the philosopher Epicurus.


Update for 5:30 p.m. ET Aug. 1: Over the weekend, Oxford papyrologist James Brusuelas sent an email with further details about the juiciest bits of papyri:
Gospel: In its current edited state, the gospel has not been overtly connected to any other sources. It remains a hot topic amongst historians of religion and Christianity. One must think about how the wider apocryphal (i.e., not included in the accepted canon of biblical texts) and biblical stories of Jesus relate to and inform the very act of casting out demons. Where does this particular narrative fit in the tradition of Jesus' acts? We have the text, we've identified it. Now it has to be studied and debated (that's why this project can be so cool).
The e-mail from Brusuelas also has information on the new Euripides play.

A couple of other non-canonical gospel fragments (British Library 840 and 1224) are noted in the Wikipedia Oxyrhynchus Gospels article. No mention yet of this new one, Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 5072.

Background here, where there is a photo of the new gospel fragment. There have been many PaleoJudaica posts on the Oxyrhynchus papyri. Some interesting ones are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here (and follow those links).

UPDATE: The Oxyrhynchus Papyri Wikipedia page has lists of biblical and biblical apocrypha manuscripts (etc.). The list of apocryphal gospels is much longer than in the Oxyrhynchus Gospels page noted above, but the long list has also not yet been updated to include 5072. (HT Roberto Labanti.)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Man returns stolen Second Temple ossuary

THE "EW" FACTOR has saved an important Second Temple-era relic for science:
Man returns stolen Second Temple ossuary
Man contacts Antiquities Authority at his own initiative after realizing the item was an ossuary, saying he purchased it from an antiquities dealer some time ago.

By Nir Hasson (Haaretz)

A Tel Aviv resident returned a Second Temple period artifact to the Antiquities Authority after realizing the item was an ossuary.

The man, who works in the field of art and design, contacted the authority inspectors at his own initiative, saying he purchased the ossuary from an antiquities dealer some time ago. He told them he kept the ancient artifact in his bedroom, until one of his friends told him this was a small coffin used to store bones a year after the burial. He said he was repelled by the thought that he slept with a coffin in his room.

Via Joseph Lauer.

The wood from the siege of Masada

THE WOOD FROM THE MASADA SIEGE is the subject of a University of Haifa press release posted at IMRA:
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
University of Haifa Media release: Where did the Roman Legion find wood for their siege on Masada?

Division of Marketing and Media
August 2, 2011
Media release

Where did the timber for the Roman rampart at Masada come from?

Earlier studies claimed that the Judean Desert was much more humid 2,000 years ago, but a new study has revealed: The Romans reaching Masada faced arid desert conditions that could not supply timber for their siege, and the isotopic composition of the wood probably reflects a distant wood source.

The Roman Legion that lay siege on Masada some 2,000 years ago was forced to use timber from other areas in the land of Israel for its weapons and encampments, and was not able to use local wood as earlier studies have proposed. This has been revealed in a new study conducted at the University of Haifa, refuting earlier suggestions that described the Judean Desert area as more humid in the times of the Second Temple.

Despite all the historic and archaeological evidence that has been revealed about the Roman siege on Masada, scholars are at difference over the large quantities of timber and firewood that were required for the Jewish fortress defenders on the mountain and for the Roman besiegers. A previous study by researchers from the Weizmann Institute of wooden remains found on the siege rampart showed that they originated from a more humid habitat, and assuming that the timber was local, claimed that this was proof of the Judean region being more humid some 2,000 years ago. The University of Haifa researchers maintain that the wood originated in a more humid region: not from the local habitat but brought from a more humid region to the foot of Masada by the well-organized Roman military supply unit.

The new study, conducted by Prof. Simcha Lev-Yadun of the University of Haifa's Department of Biology and Environment at the University of Haifa-Oranim, Prof. Mina Weinstein-Evron of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, and D. S. Lucas, a student from Ohio University, included botanic, archaeological and cultural examination and modeling to verify by means of comparison to parallel traditional societies, the uses of timber and firewood from the beginning of settlement at Masada, some 220 years before the siege, and until its fall.

First, the researchers examined the amount of wood that exists today in the Judean Desert and in the wadi deltas in the vicinity of Masada, and thereby were able to estimate the amount and types of wood that the desert could supply. Next, they calculated the amount of timber and firewood that would have been needed for the inhabitants of Masada, from 150 BCE, when it was a small fortress, through the Herodian period, when the fortress as we know it was constructed, and up to the siege, which ended in 73 CE. According to the researchers, in those times, timber was mostly used for construction, heating and cooking. Based on accepted evaluations of wood consumption for these purposes in traditional societies, on the conservatively estimated number of Masada inhabitants in each time period, the harsh climatic conditions in the desert and Masada's topography, the researchers were able to conclude that by the time the Romans arrived at Masada and began their siege (73 CE), the entire area was void of timber and firewood, due to 2,220 years of massive exploitation of the immediate environment up to that point. The Romans would have had no choice but to import wood from other areas for their weapon machinery, ramparts and basic living requirements.

The researchers were able to construct a model of the Roman Legion's timber utilization in various siege scenarios, and concluded that even if the Masada area had more than its normal availability of wood, it still would not have been sufficient for the Romans' needs, so that in any event, they would have been forced to ensure a continuous supply of wood. As such, the researchers explained, the earlier claim that the region of Masada was more humid some 2,000 years ago, was in all probability not well established.

For more information:

Rachel Feldman
Division of Marketing and Media
University of Haifa
Joseph Lauer points to the technical article that is the basis for the above. This article is behind a subscription wall:
Modeling the demands for wood by the inhabitants of Masada and for the Roman siege

S. Lev-Yaduna, D.S. Lucasb, and M. Weinstein-Evronc

a Department of Science Education – Biology, Faculty of Science and Science Education, University of Haifa, Oranim, Tivon 36006, Israel

b Department of Geography, Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701, USA

c Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Haifa 31905, Israel
Received 25 April 2008;
revised 19 January 2010;
accepted 29 January 2010.
Available online 24 February 2010.


Modeling the demands for wood, especially firewood, for the inhabitants of the unique desert fortress of Masada during the major period of its occupation (beginning about 150 B.C.E. and ending with its fall after the Roman siege in 73 C.E.) is based on the well-documented history of the site, of the number of inhabitants in each phase of occupation, and the current demand for firewood in traditional societies. The previously analyzed ancient botanical remains from Masada provide base-line data of the types of wood used. We have concluded that when the Roman siege began in C.E. 73, the vicinity of Masada would have been denuded of trees and shrubs as a result of ca. 225 years of occupation. Therefore, the Tamarix wood used to construct the upper parts of the Roman siege rampart was probably not local. The isotopic composition of the Tamarix beams probably indicates that they were imported from a different region, such as the more humid and cooler river banks east of the Dead Sea, rather than the result of climate change as previously proposed.

Keywords: Dead Sea; Desert; Environmental impact; Firewood
Article Outline


The geographical setting

Current woody vegetation in the region of Masada

The model
4.1. Chronology and estimated population size of Masada
4.2. The wood remains from Masada and the Roman siege rampart
4.3. The use of firewood in light of the botanical remains from Masada

5.1. Demands for wood and its possible origin in each phase of occupation
5.2. The possible origin of the wood of the Roman siege rampart



Review of Shepherd, "Daniel in the Context of the Hebrew Bible"

Michael B. Shepherd. Daniel in the Context of the Hebrew Bible. New York: Peter Lang, 2009. 163 pp. $39.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-4331-0539-5.

Reviewed by David M. Valeta (University of Colorado, Boulder)
Published on H-Judaic (July, 2011)
Commissioned by Jason Kalman

The Book of Daniel: A Site of Contested Identities

"This book is not the usual sort of commentary on the book of Daniel." This opening statement in the introduction of this book is certainly true. The structure of the book is both curious and confusing. After a brief introduction that raises the question, "What is the Old Testament?" and explores the process of canonical formation, the first three chapters of the book are devoted to explorations of the Pentateuch (Torah), Prophets (Nevi'im), and a portion of the Writings (Kethuvim). Chapter 4 consists of the commentary on Daniel followed by chapter 5 on Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles, and the New Testament. The book concludes with two appendices, a short essay on Hermeneutics, and the author's translation of Daniel.

(Via the Agade List.)

Reflections on Protestant Mishnah at the Talmud Blog

PROTESTANT MISHNAH: The Talmud Blog has a post by Amit Gvaryahu on the history of modern Mishnah scholarship, informed by a new book by Hanan Gafni along with Jonathan Z. Smith's classic Drudgery Divine.

Review of Hoffman & Cole, "Sacred Trash"

SACRED TRASH, by Hoffman and Cole, is reviewed by Robert Leiter in the Jewish Exponent. Excerpt:
The early chapters of Hoffman and Cole's book move at the breakneck pace of a saga straight out of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Once Schechter decides to depart the scene in Cambridge to become chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, the pace of the book slows a bit. There were many scholars warring for a chance to have a crack at the genizah treasures, and Hoffman and Cole provide detailed biographies of each of these eccentric characters and the various parts they played in uncovering what all this mountain of writing meant.

But throughout Sacred Trash, the intellectual excitement never flags, since, in the end, the revelations the genizah provided altered our conception of what Jewish life was like in the ancient world and beyond. No manuscript discovery would rival it until Bedouin shepherds in the early 1950s stumbled upon the urns containing the Dead Sea Scrolls in the caves at Qumran.
The review relates many entertaining personal details about the Lewis-Gibson twins and Solomon Schechter. Read it all.

Earlier reviews etc. here and links.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

USN&WR has contacted me about the fake metal codices

FAKE METAL CODICES WATCH: This evening I have been contacted by a journalist with U.S. News & World Report with some thoughtful questions about the authenticity of the metal codices. I have just replied to him in detail and asked him to let me know if he published anything on it. Watch this space.

Background here.

Professor Hayim Zalman Dimitrovsky, z"l


James VanderKam's work on Jubilees

JAMES VANDERKAM'S WORK on the book of Jubilees ia profiled in Notre Dame News: Translating the Book of Jubilees. One choice tidbit:
A previous English translation of the Ethiopic text states in chapter 4 verse 24: “on account of it God brought the waters of the flood upon all the land of Eden.”

The problem, says VanderKam, is that the translation implies that God brought the flood on Eden because of Enoch’s presence there. “That doesn’t make any sense,” he says, “because Enoch continues to live—he doesn’t drown in the flood.”

VanderKam’s research revealed what the text actually says: “Because of him, God did not bring the waters of the flood on Eden.”

Why the mistranslation? It turns out that the Ethiopic words for “he brought” and “it did not come” look almost exactly the same: The mistranslation was the result of a visual misinterpretation.
I am reminded, perhaps perversely, of the Wicked Bible. Gotta watch those "nots."

(Via Joseph Lauer.)

Monday, August 01, 2011

The Legend of the Ten Martyrs


By: Rabbi Eli C. Aboud
(Community Magazine)

One of the most tragic episodes in Jewish history was the ruthless torture and murder of ten Jewish sages by the merciless Roman Empire in the years following the destruction of the second Bet Hamikdash. This period was marked by particular sorrow and suffering for our people. They had been roundly defeated by the invading Roman army in their desperate attempt to protect Jerusalem and the Bet Hamikdash. The city lay in ruins, with the Bet Hamikdash burned to the ground, and the victorious Romans, dissolved any Jewish authority and ruled the land exclusively. The Romans then vented their full fury on the broken nation, and life became more difficult with each passing day. They passed laws forbidding Torah observance, and plundered the people’s possessions.

But most tragic of all was the Romans’ unspeakable brutality against ten of the greatest sages of the time (among many others) – known as the “Asara Harugei Malchut” – whom they tortured and killed in the most sadistic , barbaric methods imaginable.

A Reckoning for the Sale of Yosef

Our sages tell us that Hashem allowed the Romans to kill these ten righteous scholars as atonement for the ten sons of Yaakov who sold their brother Yosef into slavery – a crime for which the Torah assigns the death penalty (“One who kidnaps a person and sells him…shall die” – Shemot 21:16). For many centuries, the brothers’ sin went unaccounted for. Finally, during the Mishnaic period, there were ten righteous sadikim on the caliber of the sons of Yaakov whose death would be able to atone for this grave misdeed. Thereupon it was decreed in heaven that the Romans would be allowed to execute these ten spiritual giants. Nevertheless, there will come a day when this crime will be avenged and Hashem will bring full retribution upon the Romans for their brutality against the Jewish people. Furthermore, as the Midrash teaches, Hashem promised that the merits of these great sadikim and their suffering will stand for the Jewish nation until the end of days and relieve them from much suffering in this long and bitter exile.

It has become customary throughout the Jewish world to relate this tragic story in detail on Tisha Be’av (during the recitation of the Kinot), to mourn this great loss and to beg Hashem to avenge their suffering and bring an end to our exile in the merit of the ten martyrs. Many Ashkenazic communities have the custom to tell this story on the holy day of Yom Kippur (during the hazzan’s repetition of musaf), as well.

Historically, many scholars note that the ten sages were not killed all at once. They lived in different places and at different times, and the tragedy of the Asara Harugei Malchut actually transpired over the span of a century (between 70 CE-170 CE), during the bloody rule of the Roman Empire over Israel and its Jewish inhabitants in the post-Second Temple era.

We find some variation between the different sources that list the ten fallen sages. However, the list that appears in the traditional Kinot text recited on Tisha Be’av is assumed to be the most authentic, and this is the list that we present here.

This version of the story follows.

But there are other versions, including one that is particularly on my mind right now for obvious reasons. The Hekhalot Rabbati has a rather different and, in a macabre way, more cheerful account of the story. In this rendering, the evil Roman emperor who persecuted the sages is (the non-existent) Lupinus Caesar. When he set out on his program of persecution at the behest of Sammael, the evil angel of Rome, God inflicted various torments on the emperor and Rome. Undeterred, Lupinus Caesar persevered in his efforts to kill the ten sages, so God gave Lupinus' appearance to one of the sages, R. Hananiah ben Tardion, who then spent six months masquerading as the emperor and executing thousands of the leaders of the army.

Meanwhile, God altered Lupinus's appearance to be identical to another of the ten, whereupon he was tortured to death by his own Roman minions, then resurrected in the form of yet another of the ten, whom the Romans then killed, and so on until Lupinus had been slaughtered as each of the ten sages (who themselves were at home, safe and sound). Then he was sent off to his well-deserved eternal torment in the flames of Gehinnom.

You can read the story here, in a handout for my 2008 SBL paper which contains a draft translation of the relevant passage (§§107-120) from my forthcoming translation of the Hekhalot literature.

Research Leave!

MY YEAR OF RESEARCH LEAVE begins officially today. My main project is to complete the English translation of the Hekhalot literature on which I have been working for quite some time. Blogging should continue more or less as usual, and I will still be working with my doctoral students, but otherwise I intend to focus entirely on my own research.

UPDATE: More on the project here and link.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Review of Gruen (ed.), "Cultural Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean"

Erich S. Gruen (ed.), Cultural Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean. Issues & Debates. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2010. Pp. vii, 535. ISBN 9780892369690. $50.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Anna Lucille Boozer, University of Reading (
The Ancient Mediterranean can make a considerable contribution to interdisciplinary studies of identity. In particular, scholars can contribute case studies that closely link appropriate theoretical vantages to data in order to explore the longitudinal development of identities within interlinked geographical locales. Gruen's Cultural Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean clearly demonstrates the value in this approach. This volume steers clear of murky theoretical debates on identity and ethnicity, which both Hall and Wallace-Hadrill explored in their volumes. Instead, Gruen's volume focuses on case studies of identity using different methodological and disciplinary lenses. Gruen's pragmatic approach allows for greater accessibility than many recent volumes on identity, although it would have been helpful to hear more about how he defines his terms. For example, there is an unstated equivalence given between identity, culture, ethnicity, and locality in many of the contributions. Definitions and debates within the introduction could have clarified how the contributors understood the term "cultural identity." Otherwise, Gruen's introduction is fluently written and he clearly explains the value of his book divisions as well as the individual papers included within the volume.

Cultural Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean includes twenty-four essays divided into eight parts, in addition to Gruen's introduction (see book contents below).5 The majority of the contributors write in accessible prose, enabling the reader to move through the volume more easily than is often the case with edited works. Like Gruen, many of the contributors eschew theoretical debates, although their case studies are theoretically informed, as evinced by the references. This approach is both practical and refreshing. The contributions cover an impressive array of cultures, encompassing Greek, Persian, Jewish, Phoenician, Egyptian, Roman, Gallic, and culturally mixed societies. The disciplinary range is equally impressive and includes archaeologists, art historians, classicists, and ancient historians. Given this expansive breadth, it is not possible to discuss each article or section systematically within this review. I have singled out two sections to discuss at greater length because the theoretical implications of these sections reach particularly far.

Adopt a Dead Sea Scroll

The Dead Sea Scrolls are put up for adoption for just £1,200 a PAGE

By Mail On Sunday Reporter

Last updated at 11:24 PM on 30th July 2011

They are among the most famous pieces of writing in the world – and for £1,200, you can adopt a page.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in a cave in Qumran on the West Bank in 1947, and have spawned countless books and theories about early Christians and the life of Jesus.

The Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority is offering the scrolls up for adoption. There are 15,000 fragments and it costs upwards of £1,200 to have one as your own.

A dedication plaque with the name of a fragment’s ‘parent’ will be displayed with it when it is exhibited.

The object seems to be to raise conservation money for the Scrolls. This seems like a good idea and I hope they make a lot. The article is substantially accurate, although the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in eleven caves, not one. If we count the other Judean Desert scrolls, still more caves were involved.