Friday, June 15, 2012

New book: Atkinson, Queen Salome

Kenneth Atkinson, Queen Salome: Jerusalem's Warrior Monarch of the First Century B.C.E. (Jefferson, North Carolina, and London: McFarland, 2012)

New books from Peeters

Aphrahat's Demonstrations
A Conversation with the Jews of Mesopotamia

Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, 642
Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Subsidia, 642

Authors: Lizorkin E.

Year: 2012
ISBN: 978-90-429-2574-8
Pages: XVI-176 p.
Price: 70 EURO

Various opinions on the nature of Aphrahat’s interactions with the Jews have essentially revolved around either accepting or rejecting the claim that the Persian Sage had contact with (Rabbinic) Jews and/or may have been influenced by them. The issue was never settled.
To provide answers to the related questions the author uses a textual comparative methodology, juxtaposing texts from both sources and analyzing them in relation to each other. Every section that deals with such comparison is organized into three sub-sections: 1) agreement, 2) disagreement by omission; and 3) disagreement by confrontation. The study is structured around the general theme of ritual as addressed by Aphrahat in his work. It compares the treatment of circumcision, prayer, Passover, Kashrut and fasting in Aphrahat’s Demonstrations with the treatment of the same themes in Babylonian Talmud. In addition to dealing with primary conclusions that answer the questions regarding the nature of Aphrahat’s encounters with the Jews, the researcher provides a set of additional or secondary conclusions that concern variety of topics such as the nature of Jewish missions to the (Jewish) Christians and Aphrahat’s treatment of the Christian Pascha in relationship to the idea of the Christian Sabbath.

Mundus primus
Die Geschichte der Welt und des Menschen von Adam bis Noach im Genesiskommentar Ephräms des Syrers

Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, 641
Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Subsidia, 641

Kremer T.

ISBN: 978-90-429-2566-3
Pages: LVI-534 p.
Price: 120 EURO

Albeit famous as a composer of liturgical hymns, the exegetical works of Ephrem the Syrian are almost unknown. This monograph deals with Ephrem's commentary on Genesis in which he provides a specific explanation of the biblical primordial history. His exegesis proves to be apologetic (refuting the positions of his main opponents Marcion, Bardaisan and Mani), ascetic and critical towards allegorical interpretations of an allusive type. By applying principles of a complex typology, he interprets the primordial events by relating them to particular contexts (cosmology, anthropology, ethics and eschatology). Thus he assumes that Gen 1:1–9:17 describes the contours of a first world (mundus primus), which is in a paradigmatic way a typological pre-image of the second world (mundus secundus) in which we live. According to Ephrem, with the landing of the Ark and God's covenant with Noah, the history undergoes its decisive turning point. This study may prove both Ephrem's close proximity to rabbinic exegesis and his great originality. As a starting point for a specific Syriac interpretation tradition of the first book of the Bible Ephrem’s commentary is highly interesting for patristic exegesis and inspiring for the theological interpretation of the primordial history and a lively dialogue with modern exegesis.
Ephrem shows some familiarity with Jewish traditions in his Genesis commentary. I have written about this in my book The Provenance of the Pseudepigrapha.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Nag Hammadi fellowships at Oslo


First, a postdoc: Postdoctoral Research Fellowship on the Nag Hammadi (and related) Codices in Their Fourth- and Fifth-Century Contexts.
Project NEWCONT is an ERC-financed research project located at the Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo. It is a project that aims to shed new light on the production, use, and significance of the Nag Hammadi codices and related manuscripts, in the context of Fourth- and Fifth-Century Christianity in Egypt. For information on the aims and methodological perspectives of the project, see the project website.

In addition to research, the successful applicant will be expected to contribute with up to 10 % compulsory administrative work within the NEWCONT project.
Second, a doctoral fellowship: PhD-Fellowship on the Nag Hammadi (and related) Codices in Their Fourth- and Fifth-Century Contexts
Project NEWCONT is an ERC-financed research project located at the Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo. It is a project that aims to shed new light on the production, use, and significance of the Nag Hammadi codices and related manuscripts, in the context of Fourth- and Fifth-Century Christianity in Egypt. For information on the aims and methodological perspectives of the project, see the project website.

There are no teaching responsibilities. The purpose of the fellowship is research training leading to the successful completion of a PhD degree.
The application deadline for both is 1 August. Follow the links for further particulars.

Via Liv Ingeborg Lied on FB.

Syriac books and manuscripts at Duke

DUKE UNIVERSITY ANNOUNCES: Syriac Books and Manuscripts!
The Rubenstein Library is pleased to announce that we’ve digitized a wonderful publication written by Duke’s very own Maria Doerfler, Emanuel Fiano, and Lucas Van Rompay. The publication features erudite bibliographic descriptions of several Syriac manuscripts and books from the Rubenstein collections, accompanied by photographic illustrations. The work is an annotated catalog from an exhibition assembled for the Sixth North American Syriac Symposium, held at Duke University, 26-29 June 2011.

We’re grateful to the authors for allowing the book to be published on the Internet Archive! It will surely be a treasure for scholars worldwide.

Talmud news

NEWS ON THE TALMUD, some good, some bad:

The good news is that the English translation of the Steinsaltz Talmud continues apace: A colourful Talmud for our times (Simon Rocker, Jewish Chronicle):
The full 38-volume set of his monumental modern Hebrew edition of the Babylonian Talmud is now available at £790. It has been designed not only for print but for the screen with an iPad app version due to launch in July.

Also, the first three volumes of Steinsaltz’s as yet unfinished English translation are being published at £39.99 apiece (or £29.99 in a smaller edition). Koren project that the English edition will take four years to complete in 41 volumes.

Significantly, the Talmud text (as well as Rashi’s commentary) is printed with vowels and punctuated, making it far easier for students to follow. The translation is clearly laid out in paragraphs rather than dense columns of print and amplified with explanations, while the extensive English commentary has separate sections summarising points of Jewish law, examining the language and giving historical and other background.
Background here.

The bad news is further confirmation that the introduction to the new Arabic translation of the Talmud confirms some of the worst fears about it: Reading the Talmud in Amman (Aryeh Tuchman, Jerusalem Post):
What are we to make of this effort? Unfortunately, the center’s director, Jawad Ahmad, refuses to talk to the Israeli press, so all we have to go on is the printed introduction and the posts on the center’s website.

That is where the trouble begins. The project features a very lengthy introduction to the Talmud by Dr. Amir al Hafi, a professor of religious studies at the University of Al al-Bayt, Jordan. Dr. Al Hafi’s introduction draws heavily on the writings of three notorious anti-Semites: Rev. I.B. Pranaitis, Israel Shahak and Hasan Zaza; and repeats many classic anti-Semitic allegations made in connection with the Talmud and other Jewish texts.

IF HIS essay is characteristic of the mindset of the Arabic Talmud’s translators or intended users, as I believe it is, this new translation can only harm Jews and set back any efforts to promote interfaith understanding.

Although Dr. Al Hafi cites a handful of humanistic passages in the Talmud, the vast majority of his introduction describes the Talmud as a racist document that encapsulates a Jewish spirit of ethnic supremacism. He claims that Jews desire “superiority and domination of all peoples”; that modern Jews have a Talmudic mindset of racism and contempt toward non-Jews; and that the Talmud encourages Jews to lie to and steal from others.

He explicitly links these Talmudic attitudes to the State of Israel.

In his view, the Talmud has created Jewish hatred toward Palestinians, and has led Jews to violate Palestinians’ rights and dispossess them of their property. Dr. Al Hafi alleges that when Jews in the Diaspora give support to Israel, they do so as a result of these same Talmudic influences. He also alleges that the Talmud issues a “clear prohibition on withdrawing from the West Bank,” and prohibits Jews from adhering to peace agreements.

He concludes his essay with the hope that this newly translated Talmud will allow students in Arab and Muslim universities to begin their studies and understand the “Jewish spirit” and Jewish national identity.

How important is Dr. Al Hafi’s essay? Even if it does not achieve broad distribution or a significant number of readers, it tells you about the cultural environment in which this new field of academic Talmud studies in the Muslim world will take place: one in which a Professor of Religious Studies in Jordan accepts the claims of avowed anti-Semites about Jewish civilization, and feels no shame in citing them in his writing; in which Jews are believed to be racist, supremacist, deceitful and hateful people; and in which the actions of the Israeli government are thought to be motivated by an ideological or religious hatred of Arabs rather than geopolitical and security concerns.
Background here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New book: Hanneken, The Subversion of the Apocalypses in the Book of Jubilees

NEW BOOK from the Society of Biblical Literature:
The Subversion of the Apocalypses in the Book of Jubilees
Todd R. Hanneken

ISBN 1589836421
Status Available
Price: $42.95
Binding Paperback
Publication Date June, 2012

In spite of some scholars' inclination to include the book of Jubilees as another witness to “Enochic Judaism,” the relationship of Jubilees to the apocalyptic writings and events surrounding the Maccabean revolt has never been adequately clarified. This book builds on scholarship on genre to establish a clear pattern among the ways Jubilees resembles and differs from other apocalypses. Jubilees matches the apocalypses of its day in overall structure and literary morphology. Jubilees also uses the literary genre to raise the issues typical of the apocalypses—including revelation, angels and demons, judgment, and eschatology—but rejects what the apocalypses typically say about those issues, subverting reader expectations with a corrected view. In addition to the main argument concerning Jubilees, this volume's survey of what is fundamentally apocalyptic about apocalyptic literature advances the understanding of early Jewish apocalyptic literature and, in turn, of later apocalypses and comparable perspectives, including those of Paul and the Qumran sectarians.

Todd R. Hanneken is Assistant Professor of Theology at St. Mary's University in San Antonio.

Hardback edition available from Brill Academic Publishers (

Free LCL volumes!

FOR YOU, SPECIAL DEAL: Free Volumes in Loeb Classical Library.

Biblioblogging carnival

The Biblioblog Carnival for June 1, 2012 has been posted at Political Jesus. Some interesting content, but the South Park theme is a bit try-too-hard.

TC vol. 17

ETC: TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism vol. 17 (2012) Online.

Review of Friedman, The Aleppo Codex

Rival Owners, Sacred Text
The story of how the most authoritative manuscript of the Hebrew Bible, spirited to Aleppo in the 14th century, found its way to Israel.

By BENJAMIN BALINT (Wall Street Journal)

In Jerusalem, a gleaming white dome and a black basalt wall shield Israel's greatest treasures—not bejeweled crowns or scepters but unadorned texts. Visitors to the Shrine of the Book, a wing of the Israel Museum, can descend a steep flight of stairs from the main hall, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are on display, and arrive at a small chamber that houses the oldest and most authoritative copy of the Hebrew Bible.

Or so it appears. In fact, the full Aleppo Codex, as the copy is called—a bound volume of vellum pages also known as the Crown of Aleppo—is stored in a nearby vault. Only its topmost leaf, the one that viewers see, is from the codex itself. The rest is a dummy, cleverly arranged by the curators to appear real. As Matti Friedman observes in "The Aleppo Codex," a superb work of investigative journalism that reads like a detective thriller, this illusion is but the first sign that not everything about the codex is as it seems.

Earlier reviews etc. here and links.

More on Origen's Psalm homilies

ALIN SUCIU: Lorenzo Perrone About Origen’s Newly Discovered Homilies on the Psalms. Excerpt:
I worked hastily in the following weeks to go through the considerable manuscript (371 folios) and check its content. More and more, albeit still provisionally, I have come to the conclusion that we have to do with a lot of lost homilies of Origen. My conviction is supported, among other things, by the exegetical treatment presented by the homilies, the doctrinal elements they preserve, the stylistic features which are typical of the great Alexandrian. In addition, some excerpts of these homilies were already known to us under his name in some catenae fragments edited in PG 17 and the Analecta Sacra of Pitra, especially with regard to Psalm 77.

Only a thorough examination of the texts transmitted by the Codex Monacensis Graecus 314 will permit to extend with reasonable certainty the attribution to Origen of all the remaining homilies or of part of them, besides the Homilies I-IV on Psalm 36.
This seems to be a very important discovery. More please.

Background here (immediately preceding post).

UPDATE: Roger Pearse: Jerome’s Letter 33, listing the works of Origen.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Homilies on the Psalms by Origen recovered

NEW DISCOVERY: The Rediscovery of Origen’s Homilies on the Psalms (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cod.graec. 314) (Alin Suciu). "The Bavarian State Library in Munich announces that Origen’s homilies to the Psalms have been discovered in an 11th century Greek manuscript." Alin has more information here: Guest Post: Mark Bilby on the Recent Discovery of Origen’s Homilies on the Psalms. And Roger Pearse translates the German press release here and comments:
What else is out there??? What lies hidden by the wretched catalogues of most institutions, where none but the staff can browse casually?

It is not clear to me whether these homilies are entirely new or were already known from a Latin translation. But they are certainly new in the original Greek, and given that the Latin translations of Origen's works were generally pretty poor, tending toward paraphrase and bowdlerization, they are important either way. Some summary information on Origen's homilies is here. The author specifically bewails the loss of so many of the Psalms homilies.

This discovery is likely also to be important indirectly for ancient Judaism. Origen lived in Caesarea in the third century. He knew Hebrew and was in contact with the local rabbis, so his work is often influenced by contemporary Palestinian Jewish exegesis.

Bit by bit, a letter at a time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.

UPDATE (13 June): More here.

Review of Harland (ed.), Travel and Religion in Antiquity

BOOK REVIEW at H-Judaic:
Philip A. Harland, ed. Travel and Religion in Antiquity. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2011. xii + 289 pp. $85.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-55458-222-8.

Reviewed by David Frankfurter (Boston University)
Published on H-Judaic (June, 2012)
Commissioned by Jason Kalman

Beyond Pilgrimage

Philip Harland has produced an exceptionally interesting and theoretically astute collection of essays, based on seminars of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies and thoroughly in dialogue with new work like Jaś Elsner and Ian Rutherford’s Seeing the Gods (although too late for some of the participants to engage Catherine Heszer’s new Jewish Travel in Antiquity).[1] In some ways the volume follows new questions in the area of New Testament studies about itinerancy and cult migration; and yet only two of the papers in the volume address New Testament materials. The collection is far more eclectic, including discussions of Mesopotamian mythology, Nabataean ritual, and Tacitus’s interpretations of barbarian gods.

Philip Harland runs the blog Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean. An earlier review of this book is noted here.

Review of Boyarin, The Jewish Gospels

BOOK REVIEW: Peter Schäfer reviews Daniel Boyarin, The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ (New Press, 200 pp., $21.95) in The New Republic: The Jew Who Would Be God. Excerpt:
BOYARIN’S BOOK leaves the reader irritated and sad. It has very little that is new to offer—and what appears to be new is wildly speculative and highly idiosyncratic. Even judged by its commendable intentions—to win over dogmatic defenders of the perfect uniqueness of Christianity or Judaism—it is disappointing. As the younger Talmud professor in the acclaimed Israeli movie Footnote says to his hapless student, “There are many correct and new aspects in your paper—only what is new isn’t correct and what is correct isn’t new.”
Via Larry Hurtado, who concurs with Schäfer's judgment.

Earlier reviews and comments on Boyarin's work are here and links. Earlier PaleoJudaica posts on the Son of Man are here and here and links. Schäfer and I are more or less in agreement on the latter subject, although I think the Danielic "one like a son of man" may have been Enoch rather than an angel. I have not yet read Boyarin's book, so I can't comment on it.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Online aliases in academic debate

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS (really this time): Are online aliases ever justified in academic debate? Sock puppets - online commenters that create a false identity - are disrupting academic freedom and scholarly debate, says Simon Tanner (The Guardian).

If it's just a matter of discussing evidence and debating rational arguments, it doesn't really matter whether one knows all the names of the debaters. And there is a long tradition of anonymous political pamphleteering that has often served a constructive purpose.

But, that said, there is rarely a compelling reason to conceal one's identity in tempest-in-a-teapot academic debates. True, sometimes it does no great harm for an anonymous blogger to tweak the nose of academia. For example, I found the N. T. Wrong blog amusing. But, human nature being what it is, Internet anonymity leads some people to do things they would never do in their own name.

Sock puppetry goes beyond presenting arguments anonymously for an unpopular position and deliberately creates the impression that more people are making the arguments than actually are. (This amounts to a twisted appeal to the authority of numbers to give the impression of a false controversy or even a false consensus.) The showpiece example of sock puppetry run amok is the Raphael Golb affair involving the Dead Sea Scrolls (more background here and links), which Tanner mentions, citing Robert Cargill. This case moved from mere nuisance trolling to an attempt actually to damage the reputation of a prominent academic, and it illustrates sock puppetry's potential for real harm.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

This year's Masada opera

CARMEN is the operatic piece chosen for performance at Masada this year: Dead Sea fortress in Israel to be the set for 'Carmen' (MSNBC photoblog). Performances started on 6 June, but the desert context has not been without its challenges: Masada sandstorm gives Israeli opera star break. ‘Carmen’ star replaced by local understudy after desert climate proves too much. (Jerusalem Post).

This is the third annual opera run performed at Masada. The earlier ones were Nabucco in 2010 and Aida in 2011. Background here and links.