Saturday, April 14, 2012

New book on the Book of Revelation

A NEW BOOK on the Book of Revelation is profiled in the Jackson Clarion Ledger:
Millsaps' professor's new book puts apocalypse in context
Predictions, preparations have little to do with its meaning, Reynolds says

5:53 PM, Apr. 13, 2012 |

Society is obsessed with the apocalypse.

Consider zombie movies, the Mayan calendar's Dec. 21 "end" date, a TV show called Doomsday Preppers and religious figures like Harold Camping making their own predictions.

While some find evidence of this in the Bible, a Millsaps religion professor's new book offers a more hopeful interpretation of "apocalyptic" biblical texts.

Revelation, often read as a end-time prophecy, should be read in context, said professor Benjamin Reynolds.

He is the author of Between Symbolism and Realism: The Use of Symbolic and Non-Symbolic Language in Ancient Jewish Apocalypses 333-53 B.C.E.

"Often when people argue about the Bible, they accuse each other of taking this or that passage out of context," he said. "My book is all about providing that context. It examines the language of ancient Jewish apocalypses like Daniel and Revelation in painstaking detail."

It sounds interesting, but the article isn't very clear about what the new contribution of the book is. I look forward to more reviews.

Friday, April 13, 2012

DSS doctoral scholarship at Groningen

PhD position Hebrew Bible, early Judaism and Dead Sea Scrolls
The Qumran Institute of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies of the University of Groningen offers a four-year PhD position (0,9 fte) in Hebrew Bible, early Judaism and Dead Sea Scrolls as of the next academic year. This PhD position is financed by a grant of the SNS/Reaal Fund.

Research proposals should fit the research profile of the Faculty and of the Qumran Institute, which is aimed at studying the Hebrew Bible, early Judaism and the Dead Sea Scrolls from a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective within their ancient cultural contexts (ancient Near Eastern and Graeco-Roman). For examples of the Institute’s research profile, see the two conferences in 2008 (Authoritative Scriptures in Ancient Judaism) and 2010 (The Jewish Revolt against Rome: Interdisciplinary Perspectives).

Candidates with a degree in Biblical Studies, early Jewish Studies, Ancient Near Eastern Studies, or Ancient History are encouraged to apply.


In case you have any questions about the compatibility of your prospected research with the Faculty’s and Institute’s research profile and for further information, please contact the Institute’s director: Mladen Popović (

May 22th, 2012

Please include with your application:

- a curriculum vitae, including academic qualifications, grades, a list of publications (if applicable), two letters of academic recommendation from professors who can write knowledgeably about your personal and academic qualifications and your suitability for the chosen field of study
- a letter explaining your motivation, your interest in the project, and your competence in the research field
- a proposal of max 4 pages describing how you intend to conduct the project you are applying for
- your MA thesis

Send your application by email before May 22th, 2012 to:

Additional information

Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies
Qumran Institute
For those not familiar with the Dutch system, he clarifies that this is "a scholarship for study to write a dissertation, but in the Netherlands the position is a temporary job for 4 years, with benefits like social security, pension, etc."

Jesus Discovery documentary

THE JESUS DISCOVERY documentary showed in North America last night. That's the Canadian title. In the USA it was called The Resurrection Tomb Mystery. As far as I know it hasn't been shown yet in in the UK, but in any case I had other things to do with my evening. But Mark Goodacre live-blogged it at his NT Blog and he links to others who did likewise: The Resurrection Tomb Mystery: Live Blog.

Mark also has a post on the problem of The Changing Body of the Stick Man in Talpiot Tomb B, flagged by Stephen Goranson and also mentioned here yesterday.

For developments leading up to the airing of the documentary, see James McGrath at Exploring Our Matrix: The Ossuary Formerly Known as the “Jonah Ossuary”

Background here and links.

UPDATE: Also, Robert Cargill was interviewed about the "'Resurrection' box" on CNN yesterday.

Setback for Mel Gibson's Maccabees project

THE SCRIPT FOR MEL GIBSON'S JUDAH THE MACCABEE MOVIE has been rejected by Warner Bros: Warner Bros. Shelves Mel Gibson Maccabee Movie (Exclusive) (The Wrap).

The script writer has responded in a long letter to Gibson which has now been made public: Joe Eszterhas Explodes at Mel Gibson: 'You Hate Jews' (Exclusive) (The Wrap).
“I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason you won’t make ‘The Maccabees’ is the ugliest possible one. You hate Jews.”
Plus he is of the view that Gibson has anger management issues.

If you want to read the whole letter, the article has links to it. It is very disturbing.

Background here and links.

UPDATE: I suppose I should add that Gibson has denied the charges as "utter fabrications" and has said that the script was rejected on the basis of its "substandard" quality. See the update to the first article above for details.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

More on the SWBTS DSS fragments

A LEVITICUS FRAGMENT from the collection belonging to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminar gets some coverage by a local news station:
Dead Sea Scrolls At Fort Worth Baptist Seminary

April 11, 2012 7:01 PM

Reporting Carol Cavazos

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered over 60 years ago and are keys to biblical times. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth is planning an exhibition in July featured 16 scroll fragments. Wednesday, they gave us a sneak peak of a fragment not shown yet to the public.

The fragment is 14.5 centimeters long and 8 centimeters high. It was put on display for CBS 11 in the MacGorman Chapel. Seminary President, Dr. Paige Patterson, is thankful to have it.

“We are mostly grateful to God for His kindness to us,” he said.

The scrap is called Paleo Leviticus. Paleo means old and Leviticus is the name of the third book in the old testament.

"Paleo" refers to the Paleo-Hebrew script, the Second-Temple-era pastiche of the script used in the First Temple period. The article includes a photo of the fragment and mentions that it comes from Cave 11, it was discovered in 1956 and they still have the cigar box it came in (presumably from Bedouin discoverers?), and the text includes Leviticus 22:21.

Background here and links.

Jesus Discovery documentary and updates

The Jesus Discovery documentary on those Talpiot (Talpiyot) Tombs etc. is airing in North America this evening. Here are a couple of recent blog posts to get you ready:

James McGrath, Exploring Our Matrix: Talpiot Tombs, the “Jesus Discovery” and the “Jonah Ossuary” in the News.

Mark Goodacre, NT Blog: "The Jesus Discovery": Summary and Top Ten Problems.

Background here and links.

UPDATE: The name Jonah on the "Jonah Ossuary"? James Tabor: Name of “Jonah” Encrypted on the Jonah and the Fish Image.

I see some problems with reading letters here. (1) Some of these supposed letters are supposed to be part of a drawing of a stick figure of a man and a fish face, but some are not. How do we know which lines to pick and choose? Why, for example, ignore the line above the head of the yod? (2) The supposed letters are oddly shaped: the waw curves in the wrong direction, the horizontal of the nun is bent down to make the letter close to a straight line, and the top line of the he is much too long. There is no base line. (3) There are leftover lines that are not used or explained at all. Look at the top photo, where the extra lines are most visible. Now look at the left leg of the he. See the line extending from it to the intersection of the two lines to the left? Why ignore that? What is it? Also, the vertical line of the nun also continues past the base line and across the supposed body-of-Jonah line. In fact, it does not look to me as though the vertical of the nun even connects to its supposed base line, although it's hard to be perfectly sure from the photograph.

I will defer to the collective judgment of epigraphers who work with ossuary inscriptions, but my initial judgment is to agree with Christopher Rollston in the Globe and Mail article. There are no letters there.

UPDATE: Antonio Lambatti seems to see pretty much what I see: Arbitrary interpretation.

UPDATE: Stephen Goranson e-mails: "Also, which lines were chosen for the “stick figure” have changed, Compare [= JRD] (March 5) and (April 11)"

New journal

AWOL: New Online Journal, Biblical and Ancient Greek Linguistics.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

SWBTS has new DSS fragments

MORE DEAD SEA SCROLLS FRAGMENTS at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary:
Jordan- Southwestern Seminary to unveil Dead Sea Scroll fragments

MENAFN - Jordan Times - 11/04/2012

(MENAFN - Jordan Times) The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from Fort Worth, Texas, today unveils its newest acquisition of biblical Dead Sea scroll fragments, according to a seminary statement made available to The Jordan Times on Tuesday.

The event, which takes place in a Jordanian goat hair tent, presents a fragment of Dead Sea scrolls from the Paleo-Leviticus period, and a first edition 1516 Erasmus Greek New Testament, according to the statement.

The seminary invited Naser Abu Abdullah, a Jordanian bedouin expected to follow in his father's footsteps as head of the Ajrami tribe, to pitch the tent on Monday "as his ancestors have for generations", says the statement.

Abu Abdullah is expected to demonstrate how to roast coffee beans and answer questions through a translator while he serves coffee at the event, according to the statement.

Free coffee!
Attending the event are Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson and seminary professors, including those responsible for the institution's ongoing archaeology digs in Israel and Cyprus.

According to the Southwestern Seminary, it owns more Dead Sea Scroll fragments than any institution outside Jordan and Israel. The seminary will host the "Dead Sea scrolls and the Bible" exhibition from July to January 2013, displaying 16 scroll fragments, according to the statement.

Apparently this means that SWBTS has acquired still more fragments in recent months. As of December of last year they had nine or ten. No details so far on the contents of the new fragments. For that matter, reports on the contents of the earlier nine or ten were not very informative. Background here and links.

UPDATE: There is an announcement of the event with more details here. (HT reader Matthew Hamilton.)


DISCOVERIES IN THE JUDAEAN DESERT, volume 1, is back in print: Qumran Cave 1. Edited by D. Barthélemy and J. T. Milik.

"Originally published in 1955, this volume is being reissued to make the entire series available to students and scholars of biblical and post-biblical Judaism and early Christianity."

(HT Alin Suciu on FB.)

Rollston on forgery


I didn't know that the quotation about the teeth was a forgery.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

'There is no new Hebrew without ancient Hebrew'

THE ACADEMY OF THE HEBREW LANGUAGE is making progress on its Historical Dictionary of the Hebrew Language, but there is still much work to be done.
'There is no new Hebrew without ancient Hebrew'

Historical dictionary aims for greater comprehensiveness than researchers say computers can yield.

By Nir Hasson (Haaretz)
This is a rich article that is difficult to excerpt (read it all), but here are a few highlights:
The digitization of old texts has become fairly common - for instance, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem recently announced it was expanding the digital version of its Einstein archives - but, in something of a switch for the Internet era, the Historical Dictionary of the Hebrew Language is aiming for greater comprehensiveness than researchers say computers can yield.


The dictionary already contains more than 20,000 entries and has been under construction for 58 years. But it could take another generation until the dictionary is complete, said the president of the language academy, Moshe Bar-Asher.

The labor-intensive project requires many hours spent reading, defining and breaking down word after word in an effort to create the most comprehensive map of the Hebrew language. There is something seemingly Sisyphean about the snail's pace of fastidiously compiling a massive database of Hebrew words.

The 7,919 texts that have been entered into the database include the Mishna and Talmud - but not the Bible, for which concordances already exist. Other ancient texts include the Dead Sea Scrolls, Gaonic literature from the 6th to 11th centuries and medieval poetry. The most recent writer is S.Y. Agnon, who died in 1970, and other modern writers whose work is going in the database include Chaim Nachman Bialik, Ahad Ha'am, Vladimir Jabotinsky and Mendele Mocher Sefarim. Haim Be'er, A.B. Yehoshua and Amos Oz could also make it in, according to Bar-Asher.


The problem starts after the year 1050. At that time the language began to expand significantly, and it is not possible to enter all the texts ever written in Hebrew into the database. From then to today, Ben-Asher estimates that 500 million to 1 billion words have been written in Hebrew. In order to decide whether to include a given text in the database, scholars assess the influence a text has had on the Hebrew writing that came later or affords a look at unique Hebrew words, such as scientific literature from the Middle Ages.

Prediction: Technological advances in AI in the next decade or two will mean that this project is completed well ahead of schedule and more comprehensively than planned now.

Demeter sanctuary?

Israeli cave was seen as porthole to Roman underworld, researchers say

Researchers say Twins Cave may have been site of pagan ritual that lighted the way to Hades' realm.

By Ran Shapira (Haaretz)

Tags: Jerusalem

We often hear about how Jerusalem is holy to followers of the three major monotheistic religions. But what is less well-known is that the surrounding Judean hills were home to pagan ritual sites involving Greco-Roman gods. One such site, linked to the harvest goddess Demeter, has been identified at the Twins Cave, according to a study released by the Yad Ben-Zvi historical research institute last week.


Zissu and Klein said in the study that the Twins Cave was used for just such pagan rituals between the second and fourth century C.E.

The 42 clay lamps from the late Roman period discovered in the cave were used as part of a pagan rite, apparently meant to guide Demeter's way as she searched underground for her daughter, they said. Similar lamps and torches were used in celebrations dedicated to Demeter in ancient Greece, and the theory is in keeping with contemporary depictions of ceremonies dedicated to Demeter that have been found in Acre, Beit She'an, Nablus and Caesarea.


Monday, April 09, 2012

Free chapter: Asprem, Arguing with Angels

FOR YOU, SPECIAL DEAL: The first chapter of Egil Asprem's forthcoming book, Arguing with Angels: Enochian Magic and Modern Occulture (SUNY, May 2012) is now available for free online. Asprem writes on his blog, Heterodoxology:
My first book, Arguing with Angels: Enochian Magic and Modern Occulture, is due to be released by SUNY Press next month (May 2012). The publisher has now released the first chapter of the book in electronic form on their website, so that you can read it there for free. This chapter is entitled “The Magus and the Seer”, and deals with John Dee’s angel conversations, the cultural and intellectual context, the role of the skryer, Edward Kelley, and some interpretations and explanations of what happened. When I wrote this chapter, already several years ago, it was intended as a “state of research” on Dee’s angelic diaries, and serve as an important reference for the rest of the book.
I noted the book in August of last year here. I shall be reading it carefully, especially the first chapter, as I prepare my SBL paper for the November meeting in Chicago: The 94 Books of Ezra and the Angelic Revelations of John Dee.

Also, here is another Heterodoxology post on the Dee-Kelley revelations which is highly relevant to my paper: An etiology of angelic vision: Article on John Dee and Edward Kelly in Aries.

More from Bauckham on the Talpiot Tomb inscription

RICHARD BAUCKHAM has published a roundup essay on the Talpiot (Talpiyot) Tomb inscription over at Larry Hurtado's Blog: Bauckham on the Talpiyot Tomb Inscription. Go there for a link to the pdf file.

The fact that expert epigraphers and philologists can come up with such different readings is an object lesson in how much we still don't know about ancient languages and their historical contexts.

Background on the recent discussion of this inscription is here, here and here. Background in general on the Jesus Discovery/Talpiot Tombs discussion is here with many links.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Happy Easter

HAPPY EASTER to all those celebrating.

James McGrath has a roundup post on relevant topics: Talpiot Tomb/Good Friday-Easter/Passover Round-Up.

The Jesus Discovery/Talpiot (Talpiyot) Tombs story has moved into the realm of the surreal with the confusion over the face of Jesus on one of the ossuaries. See Mark Goodacre at the NT Blog and make sure to read the update: Face of Jesus spotted in Ossuary 2, Talpiot Tomb B.

Background to the whole story is here and here and links.

Also, a relevant essay for the day: The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth (John Blake, CNN Belief Blog). Excerpt:
On this Easter Sunday, millions of Christians worldwide will mark the resurrection of Jesus. Though Christians clash over many issues, almost all agree that he existed.

But there is another view of Jesus that’s been emerging, one that strikes at the heart of the Easter story. A number of authors and scholars say Jesus never existed. Such assertions could have been ignored in an earlier age. But in the age of the Internet and self-publishing, these arguments have gained enough traction that some of the world’s leading New Testament scholars feel compelled to publicly take them on.

Most Jesus deniers are Internet kooks, says Bart D. Ehrman, a New Testament scholar who recently released a book devoted to the question called “Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth.”

He says Freke and others who deny Jesus’ existence are conspiracy theorists trying to sell books.

“There are people out there who don’t think the Holocaust happened, there wasn’t a lone JFK assassin and Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.,” Ehrman says. “Among them are people who don’t think Jesus existed.”
The article gives a pretty balanced treatment, by which I mean that it shows both sides of the argument and that one side is goofy. In fact, there isn't really an academic argument: the SBL, SNTS, BNTS, etc. annual conferences do not have "Did Jesus Exist?" sessions, because specialists who actually publish peer-review publications etc. agree that Jesus existed and don't see anything to debate.

What we can know about the historical Jesus is quite another matter, one about which there is much debate among specialists. For some related reflections see here, here, here, here, here, here, and follow the many links.

And in answer to the question posed in the article, yes, it matters if Jesus existed. Because history matters.

Phoenicia on display in London

THE GOOD SHIP PHOENICIA will be on display in London this summer:
In summer 2012 there is a unique opportunity for members of the public, schools and corporates to visit Phoenicia in London, UK and attend the world premier of an exhibition “The Phoenicians: The Greatest Ancient Sailors” at Saint Katharine Docks.

This is a once in a life time opportunity to experience life on board an authentic replica Phoenician ship from 600BC and learn more about the mysterious Phoenicians. The exhibition will feature historic artefacts alongside interactive exhibits and media clips. Suitable for all ages this exhibition promises to inspire, challenge and educate visitors from far and wide.

Dates and prices:

“The Phoenicians: The Greatest Ancient Sailors” will premier in London from 2nd June-13th July and again from 22nd August-30th September 2012 at Saint Katharine Docks, London
Follow the first link for more information.

(Via the Europe Travel blog.)

Background on the 2008-10 circum-African voyage of the Phoenicia is here with many links.