Friday, June 29, 2012

Moses and Greco-Egyptian magic

JARED CALAWAY has a post on the post-biblical pagan Moses tradition at Antiquitopia: Moses and Greco-Egyptian Practices: Contextualizing the Christian Moses. In brief:
In this post, I would like to delve a little deeper in the Moses of the Greek and Demotic Magical Papyri: a Moses to be emulated; a Moses who belongs to an environment where his name had value and influence even beyond Jewish and Christian circles, and whose experiences upon the mountain provided a model to emulate as you, too, could call upon and see God on the mount.
Incidentally, The Eighth Book of Moses in PGM 13 has been translated by Todd Klutz for the first volume of texts from the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project (working title: Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures). Should be out in the autumn.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

What is a redactor?

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: What is a Redactor? (Ron Naiweld at the Talmud blog).

This is not just an issue for rabbinic texts. In antiquity it was the norm for writers to be both authors and compilers and they saw no particular distinction between the two.

$500,000 Talmuds?

Rare Edition of Talmud May Yield Big Bucks

(Tuesday, June 26th, 2012) (The Yeshiva World)

The starting price for volumes of Shas Bavli and Yerushalmi with handwritten notes from the Vilna Gaon offered for sale is $500,000. The sale offered by the Kedma Company includes mesechtos Rosh Hashanah, Taanis, Yoma, Sukka, and Megilah, as well as Talmud Yerushalmi Meseches Shekalim.

Editions containing the Gra’s notes were reprinted in 1880-1886 but according to the seller, the volumes for sale do not include all the notes from the Gra or those that were printed were amended. The volumes being offered for sale are from those with the Gra’s original comments, and these comments have been lost over the years.

That sounds pretty cool, but whether it is cool to the tune of $500,000 we shall see.

Talmud and drug trade?

TALMUD WATCH: Iran VP Says Talmud to Blame for Drugs Trade.

Of course he did. He did not, however, cite a specific passage.

Another circumcision ban

I SEEM TO RECALL that banning circumcision didn't work out very well for Antiochus Epiphanes.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cherub Press trilogy on ancient Jewish mysticism

Cherub Press is proud to announce
A trilogy of studies in Hebrew on ancient Jewish mysticism by
Michael Schneider


Volume I
The Appearance of the High Priest
Theophany, Apotheosis and Binitarian Theology
From Priestly Tradition of the Second Temple Period through Ancient Jewish Mysticism (in Hebrew)

מראה כהן
תיאופניה, אפותיאוזה, ותיאולוגיה בינארית
בין ההגות הכהנית בתקופת הבית השני לבין המיסטיקה היהודית הקדומה

Volume II
Scattered Traditions of Jewish Mysticism
Studies in Ancient Jewish Mysticism in Light of Traditions from the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha
Hellenistic Literature, Christian and Islamic Sources (in Hebrew)

המסורות הגנוזות של המיסטיקה היהודית
מחקרי המיסטיקה היהודית הקדומה
על פי עדויות של ספרים חיצונים, ספרות הלניסטית, מקורות נוצריים ומוסלמיים

Volume III
The Divine Retinue
Variety of Jewish Mysticism
(in Hebrew)

פמליא של מעלה
ריבוי פניה של המיסטיקה היהודית
(forthcoming, this summer)

The Divine Retinue: Variety of Jewish Mysticism, פמליא של מעלה: ריבוי פניה של המיסטיקה היהודית, by Michael Schneider (Sources and Studies in the Literature of Jewish Mysticism 32; 2012, in Hebrew, FORTHCOMING). This is the third book in a trilogy of studies on Jewish mythical and mystical traditions from the Second Temple period through the early medieval ages. One of the main purposes of this study is to show variegation in early Jewish mysticism that cannot be reduced to a few major trends. One of its cross-cutting themes is the images of multiplicity – like the rainbow and the multi-faced theophanic angels – as a revelation of the One God. The book traces mythic and mystical traditions and motifs through sources belonging to a variety of languages, cultures and religions, mainly Jewish, Christian, gnostic, Muslim, Zoroastrian and Buddhist.
ORDER HERE: Atlas Books

Scattered Traditions of Jewish Mysticism: Studies in Ancient Jewish Mysticism in Light of Traditions from the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha Hellenistic Literature, Christian and Islamic Sources המסורות הגנוזות של המיסטיקה היהודית: מחקרי המיסטיקה היהודית הקדומה על פי עדויות של ספרים חיצונים, ספרות הלניסטית, מקורות נוצריים ומוסלמיים, by Michael Schneider (Sources and Studies in the Literature of Jewish Mysticism 31; 2012, 336 pages, ISBN 1-933379-26-X, in Hebrew). This is the second volume in a trilogy of studies on Jewish mythical and mystical traditions from the Second Temple through the early medieval ages. The book includes three extensive studies. The first deals with pseudepigraphic book of Joseph and Aseneth and explores the topics of ritual, initiation, mystical transformation and sacred marriage. The second chapter contains a thorough revision of the scholarly consensus about the pargod as a medium of mystical vision in Hekhalot literature and in the Apocalyptic. The third chapter is devoted to the ‘Prince of peace’, the divine-angelic-human messianic figure that embodies the principle of ‘coincidentia oppositorum’.
ORDER HERE: Atlas Books

The Appearance of the High Priest – Theophany, Apotheosis and Binitarian Theology: From Priestly Tradition of the Second Temple Period through Ancient Jewish Mysticism, by Michael Schneider, מראה כהן: תיאופניה, אפותיאוזה, ותיאולוגיה בינארית – בין ההגות הכהנית בתקופת הבית השני לבין המיסטיקה היהודית הקדומה (Sources and Studies in the Literature of Jewish Mysticism 30; 2012, 384 pages, ISBN 1-933379-25-1, in Hebrew). This volume is the first of three volumes in a major scholarly reassessment of mystical traditions in the Second Temple period, which explores the variety of early religious traditions across diverse bodies of literature and in various languages. The symbolic, mythic and mystical features of these traditions, their transmission and migration histories and their reappearance in some medieval texts is further investigated. At the heart of this volume is the concept of the encounter and communion between the high priest and God, which implies an anthropomorphic theophany (the appearance of the God in human form) and the apotheosis (deification) of the high priest. This phenomenon is understood in the framework of a binitarian theology that distinguishes the hidden God from His visible appearance. These concepts appear as sources for many latter mystical traditions.
ORDER HERE: Atlas Books
Volume one has been noted already here.

SWBTS DSS exhibition

A DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary opens on Monday. Here is some information: Southwestern report highlights Scrolls.

Background on the SWBTS scrolls is here and links.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Daf Yomi celebrations coming

THE DAF YOMI ("A Page a Day") cycle of Talmud study is coming to another conclusion in about a month: Preparations for Talmud Conclusion Celebrations under Way.

The cycle last ended in 2005. More on Daf Yomi here and here.

Iraqi Jewish archive controversy escalates

IRAQ is taking some action in order to get the Iraqi Jewish archive back from the United States: Iraq cuts US archaeology cooperation over archives (AFP).

This article is much better researched than some of the other recent ones covering the controversy and I don't see any errors in it. The article reports that the US position is that the archive is being held temporarily in the US for it to be conserved and digitized, which was what I understood. I have commented on the situation here (with many background links going back to 2003). All I will add is that cutting off cooperation with the United States on these matters is likely to do Iraq's archaeology more harm than good. I hope they reconsider and find another way forward.

The Arch of Titus in color

Technology Identifies Lost Color at Roman Forum

Published: June 24, 2012

ROME — Historical sources describe the menorah looted by the Romans when they destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as made of gold, as God instructed Moses in Exodus.

So the recent discovery that a version of the menorah in a bas-relief on the first-century Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum was originally painted a rich yellow should not come as much of a surprise. But given that the image faded to the color of its underlying stone long ago — like so much else in and around the Forum — precise knowledge of its once-bright pigmentation comes as an exciting revelation to historians and archaeologists.

“The Bible said it was gold, but the monument, as it was seen for centuries, told us it was white,” said Steven Fine, the director of the Arch of Titus Digital Restoration Project and a professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University in New York, which is sponsoring the project. “Isn’t it cool to be that much closer to the viewers of the first and second century?”

The findings were made possible using noninvasive spectrometry readings carried out on the arch this month.


The latest generation of ultraviolet-visual absorption spectrometers are more manageable and more sensitive, “so we can get a reading analyzing a grain of pigment on a square centimeter, and that is very helpful,” said Heinrich Piening, a conservator with the State of Bavaria Department for the Conservation of Castles, Gardens and Lakes in Germany.

Mr. Piening did spectrometric readings on the arch and compared them with a database of pigments and dyes to identify the original color. The menorah, he said, was painted a particular yellow ocher “that would have looked like gold from far away.”

I keep saying it: non-invasive and non-destructive technologies are the way of the future. Relevant posts here, here, here, here and here and links.

Azazeel in English

THIS BOOK caused a stir in Egypt when the original Arabic version was published a couple of years ago:
Youssef Ziedan, Azazeel (Atlantic Books, English translation 2012)

Set in the 5th century AD, Azazeel is the exquisitely crafted tale of a Coptic monk's journey from Upper Egypt to Alexandria and then Syria during a time of massive upheaval in the early Church. The monk, Hypa, embarks on a journey both physical and spiritual, encountering, the devil, Azazeel, and the hardship of severe temptation. At times able to resist, while at others bending to the strengths of his desire, Hypa learns that physical pleasure and spiritual enlightenment can be two sides of the same coin.
Winner of the Arab Booker Prize, Azazeel highlights how the history of our civilization has been warped by greed and avarice since its very beginnings and how one man's beliefs are challenged not only by the malice of the devil, but by the corruption with the early Church. In sparse and often sparkling prose that reflects the arid beauty of the Syrian landscape, Azazeel is a novel that forces us to re-think many of our long-held beliefs and invites us to rediscover a lost history.
HT my St. Andrews colleague Grant Macaskill. Background here and here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A good name for a band

EPHREM THE SYRIAN has a band named after him:
Blood Donation Campaign in Appreciation of the Sacrifices of Homeland's Defenders

Jun 12, 2012

DAMASCUS, (SANA)- 'The Youth of Love and Peace' group and the Syriac Mar Afram musical band on Tuesday carried out a blood donation campaign under the title 'The Syrian Blood Is Precious' to stress the Syrians' commitment to national unity and their steadfastness in the face the conspiracy targeting their homeland.


Another review of Philly DSS exhibit

EXHIBITION REVIEW: ‘Dead Sea Scrolls' at Franklin Institute ties present to past (Howard Shapiro, He writes of an exhibited incense holder:
It is 3,000-odd years old. The first thing I noticed is the burn mark on its surface — the legacy of incense, as if it had been lit last night.

Shivers crept along my spine — a feeling that, instantly, a piece of something inanimate had melded me to a person who lived very differently, eons ago, but in a culture that over time also became mine.
Background here and links.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Steinsaltz Talmud varia

RABBI ADIN STEINSALTZ is interviewed by Elliot Resnick The Jewish Press: Talmudic, Tenacious, Tough-Minded: An Interview With Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Excerpt:
The Jewish Press: Why should someone buy the Steinsaltz Talmud over ArtScroll’s immensely popular Shas?

Rabbi Steinsaltz: Look, it’s not the same. I would put it in the following way: When you learn from my Gemara, I hope that you get a kick to learn further, and that you don’t feel that you know everything and that all the problems are answered.

Does the ArtScroll Shas not do that as well?

I think ArtScroll gives too much in a way. Everything is in there. I’m trying to have it in a way that you study and want more.

Basically I want, not just that you will look at the Gemara, but that you will get involved in it. You cannot learn Gemara completely passively. You have to be a participant.

There are two parts to what Hillel HaZaken said about kol haTorah kulah. One part is always quoted – “What you don’t want done to you, don’t do to others.” But the other part – “And all the rest go and learn” – is no less important.

I hope to have people who will learn and say, “We want to know more, we have more questions.”
Read it all for lots more on Rabbi Steinsaltz and his Talmud translations. And his detective novels.

Speaking of the Artscroll Talmud, at Hirhurim - Torah Musings, Rabbi Gil Student has a review of the new English translation of the Steinsaltz Talmud with the Artscroll version: Koren Steinsaltz Talmud. Excerpt:
Which edition is better? It depends what you are looking for. Even seasoned scholars can gain from the Artscroll’s commentary. Koren Steinsaltz’s commentary offers much less to such people.

People looking for a good translation that will help them master the Talmud itself will certainly prefer the Koren Steinsaltz. It is less of a crutch and more of a tool, specifically designed to offer students entry to Talmud study, to ask questions and to find for themselves a friend and a teacher with whom to advance their study.
(Via the Talmud Blog on FB).

For more on Rabbi Steinsaltz and the Steinsaltz Talmud, see here with many links. For more on the Artscroll/Schottenstein Talmud see the relevant paragraphs in this post and the links that follow. And note the reference there to the earlier Soncino and Neusner translations.

Aramaic elementary school in Jish

Aramaic Classes Help Maronites in Israel Understand Their Liturgies

Posted GMT 6-22-2012 21:38:34 (AINA)

JISH, Israel -- Aramaic language classes begun four years ago at Jish Elementary School have changed the way youngsters experience the weekly liturgy.

"Before, I used to wonder how I would get through the one-and-a-half hours at church. Sometimes we would even laugh at the how the priest was praying," recalled Carla Issa, 9, who has studied Aramaic at the school for two years. "But now I understand what I am saying. I love it."

Sunday Mass at St. Maron Parish is partially recited in Aramaic. But Issa and friends also have found another use for the ancient language: They sometimes use it when they pass notes to each other in class.

Some 110 students are now studying the language at the elementary school as a result of years of effort by village resident Shadi Khalloul, 37, chairman of the Aramaic Christian nongovernmental organization in Israel.

"This is our Maronite Aramaic heritage," he said on a recent visit to the school. "We are hoping to revive (Aramaic) as a spoken language. Hopefully the pupils will use it among themselves to communicate with each other. It is our forefather's language. It is the language of Jesus, we should not forget that, especially the Aramaic Galilee dialect."

By the way, Aramaic is not "the root language of all Semitic languages." That would be Proto-Semitic, which came and went without a writing system and which now has to be reconstructed by comparison of the the surviving Semitic languages.

But that technical point aside, the Maronites of Jish have an exciting Aramaic-revival project and I wish them well. Background here, here, and here.