Saturday, November 26, 2011

Torleif Elgvin's website


Most of it is in Norwegian, but I have linked to the English section, where, inter alia, you can download his translation of the Gabriel Revelation, (a.k.a. Hazon Gabriel or the Vision of Gabriel, background here and here). He will publish more on his translation in the next volume of Semitica (54/2011).

HB/OT job at KCL

Samuel Davidson Professor OR Reader in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible

Department of Theology and Religious Studies



Summary The department of Theology and Religious Studies, King's College London, seeks a world leader in the field of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible with effect from 1 September 2012 or as soon as possible thereafter. A research specialisation in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible within its historical and cultural contexts would be particularly welcome, as would expertise in relevant archaeological debates. Applicants should have a strong background in using languages and critical tools, familiarity with the range of interpretative approaches current in Biblical studies, and a concern to address subjects relevant to contemporary issues. An interest in art history, literature, film and/or other contemporary arts would be an advantage. There are numerous opportunities for close collaboration with colleagues in Biblical Studies elsewhere in London and beyond. This post offers a chance to make a substantial contribution to the development of Biblical Studies in the UK and internationally.

Details Informal enquiries should be made to Prof. Paul Janz, 0207 848 2398, email, or Dr Joan Taylor, 0207 848 2335, email

Salary The appointment will be made at Professorial or Reader level with salary to be negotiated, plus London Allowance. Benefits include an annual season ticket loan scheme and a superannuation scheme.

Post duration Open-ended

Contact For an application pack, please click on the 'Further details' link below. Alternatively, please email Please quote reference A9/AAT/802/11-TC when applying and in all correspondence.
Follow the link for more details.

(Via the BNTS list.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

More on family in the Elephantine Papyri

FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS IN THE ELEPHANTINE PAPYRI get more attention from the Jerusalem Post Magazine:
His/Her Story: A mixed marriage in ancient Egypt

11/24/2011 13:38 By RENÉE LEVINE MELAMMED

The discovery of documents from Elephantine revealed two sets of family archives that provide insight into Jewish life in this community.

One archive belongs to Mibtahiah, probably the first Jewish woman whose life is documented (476-416 BCE; see column “A landed woman,” April 1). The second archive belongs to Annania Ben- Azaria, an attendant in the temple who was responsible for its upkeep.

Annania did not marry a Jewish woman, but rather an Egyptian handmaiden named Tamat. Intermarriages were not unusual in this society; the Egyptian spouse often assimilated into the Jewish community. (Mibtahiah’s second husband adopted a Hebrew name.) At any rate, Tamat, the daughter of Patu, belonged to Meshullam Ben-Zachor, a wealthy Jew.


This family had complicated dealings. To begin with, the master maintained control over his maidservant and her daughter until his death, freeing them only after he was no longer present. The handmaiden, an Egyptian working for a Jew, married a wealthy Jew who was employed in the temple built by the Jews of Elephantine, where they worshiped the Hebrew god Yahu alongside two female deities. Her union with him became legal once she produced a son, although her daughter is more prominent in the archive. This daughter also married a Jew and entered the union with a more impressive dowry than her mother had, for after all, she had a Jewish father and had inherited a Jewish adopted brother who was generous toward her. By the time her parents died, Tamat’s daughter had received or inherited substantial property.

The article from April mentioned above was noted in this post, which also links to earlier posts on the Elephantine Papyri.

Temple Platform completed after Herod's time

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: New finds confirm Josephus' account of the process of the building of the Herodian Temple Platform, some of which was actually completed after Herod's time. IAA press release:
Building the Western Wall: Herod Began it but Didn’t Finish it

Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa and Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority: A ritual bath exposed beneath the Western Wall of the Temple Mount shows that the construction of that wall was not completed during King Herod’s lifetime

Who built the Temple Mount walls? Every tour guide and every student grounded in the history of Jerusalem will immediately reply that it was Herod. However, in the archaeological excavations alongside the ancient drainage channel of Jerusalem a very old ritual bath (miqwe) was recently discovered that challenges the conventional archaeological perception which regards Herod as being solely responsible for its construction.

Recently, reinforcement and maintenance measures were implemented in the pavement of Jerusalem’s main street from 2,000 years ago, used by pilgrims when they went up to the Temple Mount. This was done as part of the project to re-expose the drainage channel that passes beneath the street, running from the Siloam Pool in the City of David to the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden near the Western Wall. The excavations at the site are being conducted on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with Nature and Parks Authority and the East Jerusalem Development Corporation, and are underwritten by the Ir David foundation. The excavations are directed by archaeologist Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority, with assistance from Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa.

In an excavation beneath the paved street near Robinson’s Arch, sections of the Western Wall’s foundation were revealed that is set on the bedrock – which is also the western foundation of Robinson’s Arch – an enormous arch that bore a staircase that led from Jerusalem’s main street to the entrance of the Temple Mount compound.

According to Professor Reich, “It became apparent during the course of the work that there are rock-hewn remains of different installations on the natural bedrock, including cisterns, ritual baths and cellars. These belonged to the dwellings of a residential neighborhood that existed there before King Herod decided to enlarge the Temple Mount compound. The Jewish historian Josephus, a contemporary of that period, writes that Herod embarked on the project of enlarging the compound in the eighteenth year of his reign (that is in 22 BCE) and described it as “the largest project the world has ever heard of”.

When it was decided to expand the compound, the area was confiscated and the walls of the buildings were demolished down to the bedrock. The rock-cut installations were filled with earth and stones so as to be able to build on them. When the locations of the Temple Mount corners were determined and work was begun setting the first course of stone in place, it became apparent that one of the ritual baths was situated directly in line with the Western Wall. The builders filled in the bath with earth, placed three large flat stones on the soil and built the first course of the wall on top of this blockage.

While sifting the soil removed from inside the sealed ritual bath, three clay oil lamps were discovered of a type that was common in the first century CE. In addition, the sifting also yielded seventeen bronze coins that can be identified. Dr. Donald Ariel, curator of the numismatic collection of the Israel Antiquities Authority, determined that the latest coins (4 in all) were struck by the Roman procurator of Judea, Valerius Gratus, in the year 17/18 CE. This means that Robinson’s Arch, and possibly a longer part of the Western Wall, were constructed after this year – that is to say: at least twenty years after Herod’s death (which is commonly thought to have occurred in the year 4 BCE).

This bit of archaeological information illustrates the fact that the construction of the Temple Mount walls and Robinson’s Arch was an enormous project that lasted decades and was not completed during Herod’s lifetime.

This dramatic find confirms Josephus’ descriptions which state that it was only during the reign of King Agrippa II (Herod’s great-grandson) that the work was finished, and upon its completion there were eight to ten thousand unemployed in Jerusalem.

Click here for downloading high-res images

List of captions of the attached pictures:
1. The first course of the wall resting on the bedrock. Photograph: Vladimir Naykhin.
2. A coin of the Roman procurator Valerius Gratus, which helped in dating the construction of Robinson’s Arch.

For further information, kindly contact: Yoli Shwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority spokesperson, 052-5991888
This is the photo of the coin:

Happy Thanksgiving!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all those celebrating.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New book: Orlov, "Dark Mirrors"

Andrei A. Orlov, Dark Mirrors: Azazel and Satanael in Early Jewish Demonology (SUNY, 2011)
And you can have a more detailed preview from Google Books:

In San Diego

IN SAN DIEGO. Got here yesterday afternoon, but had to take a circuitous route from the airport to avoid the massive traffic jam across most of the city's freeways. And then I got very busy. But I'm here now, have had a good night's sleep, and will try to blog from time to time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sad News: Joseph Naveh

SAD NEWS: Just in from the Agade list that renowned Israeli paleographer and epigrapher Joseph Naveh passed away yesterday. The funeral is this afternoon. May his memory be for a blessing.

Good conference

GOOD SESSIONS, GOOD PAPERS, GOOD NETWORKING, GOOD CONFERENCE. And this is the first time I've arrived at a session as a presenter and asked the chair and the other presenters if I could go last so I could write my paper. But that seemed to work out okay. As least I had fun.

Next stop, San Diego. My flight leaves this afternoon.

Ancient textiles from Qumran


Despite the inflated headline, for which the author, Owen Jarus, should not be held responsible, this seems to be a good article. It is accurate in the parts that discuss things I know about and it summarizes some recent research that does indeed potentially bear on the vexed question of the authorship of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Dead Sea Scrolls may have been written, at least in part, by a sectarian group called the Essenes, according to nearly 200 textiles discovered in caves at Qumran, in the West Bank, where the religious texts had been stored.

Scholars are divided about who authored the Dead Sea Scrolls and how the texts got to Qumran, and so the new finding could help clear up this long-standing mystery.

The research reveals that all the textiles were made of linen, rather than wool, which was the preferred textile used in ancient Israel. Also they lack decoration, some actually being bleached white, even though fabrics from the period often have vivid colours. Altogether, researchers say these finds suggest that the Essenes, an ancient Jewish sect, "penned" some of the scrolls.

Not everyone agrees with this interpretation. An archaeologist who has excavated at Qumran told LiveScience that the linen could have come from people fleeing the Roman army after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and that they are in fact responsible for putting the scrolls into caves.

Robert Cargill is interviewed in the piece as well.

I am not an archaeologist or other specialist in ancient material culture and I don't have a strong opinion on whether the Qumran sectarians lived at the site, although I certainly would not rule it out. But where other specialists disagree among themselves, there is no point in being dogmatic. A connection between the Qumran sectarians and the Essenes is plausible, although I resist reading the Classical accounts of the Essenes alongside the Dead Sea Scrolls in a harmonistic way. I do think it likely that, whoever lived at the site at the time of the Great Revolt against Rome in 68 CE, many of the scrolls were brought to the site from outside, presumably from other communities of like-minded sectarians in Judea. See also earlier posts here and here.

It would be nice if this new research did shed some light on the problem of who lived at the site of Qumran in the late Second Temple period, but only time and the process of discussion in the peer-reviewed scholarly literature will tell.

UPDATE: The Daily Mail also covers the story and, for once, has the more temperate headline: Dead Sea Scrolls may have been written by mysterious sect. There are some nice photos of the site and the scrolls in this article. (Bad link now fixed. Sorry about that.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

More on Google Digitization Project from NYT

THE GOOGLE DIGITIZATION PROJECT is profiled in the NYT Technology column:
Quietly, Google Puts History Online

Published: November 20, 2011

PARIS — When the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, home to the Dead Sea Scrolls, reopened last year after an extensive renovation, it attracted a million visitors in the first 12 months. When the museum opened an enhanced Web site with newly digitized versions of the scrolls in September, it drew a million virtual visitors in three and a half days.

The scrolls, scanned with ultrahigh-resolution imaging technology, have been viewed on the Web from 210 countries — including some, like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria, that provide few real-world visitors to the Israel Museum.

“This is taking the material to an amazing range of audiences,” said James S. Snyder, the museum’s director. “There’s no way we would have had the technical capability to do this on our own.”

The digitization of the scrolls was done by Google under a new initiative aimed at demonstrating that the Internet giant’s understanding of culture extends beyond the corporate kind. The Google Cultural Institute plans to make artifacts like the scrolls — from museums, archives, universities and other collections around the world — accessible to any Internet user.

Background here and links.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Book: Henze, "The Gabriel Revelation"

Matthias Henze (ed.), Hazon Gabriel: New Readings of the Gabriel Revelation (Early Judaism and Its Literature) (Atlanta: SBL, 2011)
My review copy for the SOTS Booklist. It arrived a few days ago when I was still in St. Andrews, but this is the first chance I've had to note it. Professor Henze is also translating the Gabriel Revelation for volume 2 of the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project.

Goodacre on "Engaging the 'Wired-In Generation'"

MARK GOODACRE has posted his presentation made yesterday in the "Engaging the 'Wired-In Generation': Knowledge and Learning in the Digital Age" session (noted here). (Via James McGrath, whom I also ran into yesterday.)