Saturday, August 11, 2012

Slavonic Apocrypha postdocs—deadline extended

PROFESSOR GELLER has e-mailed to inform me that the application deadline for the Slavonic Apocrypha postdoctoral fellowships at the FU Berlin has been extended to 15 September.

More on the Noah movie

DEANE GALBRAITH has more on the upcoming film about Noah at Remnant of Giants: Darren Aronofsky’s Noah Film to include Giant Angels called Watchers.

Via James McGrath, at Exploring Our Matrix, who also has some comments.

I posted on the story in July: Noah, the movie.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Grade inflation meets the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Fired Professor Says Seminary Forcibly Raised Students' Grades

By Dan Berrett

A scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls who is fighting dismissal from a graduate school of theology is alleging that his former employer inflated some of his students' grades to retaliate against him.

The dispute pits Jamal-Dominique Hopkins, a former associate professor of the New Testament, against the Interdenominational Theological Center, a consortium of eight seminaries in Atlanta. The center awards master's and doctoral degrees in such fields as divinity, Christian education, church music, ministry, and theology.

The center did not respond to multiple telephone and e-mail requests for comment.

Mr. Hopkins alleges that administrators at the center changed the grades of 10 of his 54 students last semester. A printout of a grading report provided by Mr. Hopkins, with students' names redacted out, shows a number of marks changed from failing to passing.

This situation will have to be resolved by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, presumably based on more information than is given in the article, and I don't have any comments on it. But I note it here because the Dead Sea Scrolls are involved, sort of.

Via Bob Cargill on FB.

Talmud animation

A week to animate talmudic texts? No problem

by emma silvers, j. staff (

They’re not exactly reinventing the Talmud, but a group of creative thinkers will be in San Francisco next week to bring the ancient Jewish text to life.

With the help of a dozen university students from around the country, a handful of professional artists, and a hefty dose of creative energy, talmudic tales will take on a modern look at the Contemporary Jewish Museum from Monday, Aug. 12, through Friday, Aug. 17. The museum will partner with the nonprofit production company G-dcast for a collaborative animation project to produce six short films based on Jewish texts.

No word yet on which specific texts are to be animated.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

More on the Petrie memorial

Paying homage to pioneering archaeologist who lost his head

Scholars and curiosity seekers marked the 70th anniversary of the death of Flinders Petrie, the father of modern archaeology, whose headless body is buried in Jerusalem.

By Nir Hasson | Aug.08, 2012 | 1:26 AM (Haaretz)

On Monday of last week the Israeli Antiquities Authority conducted an unusual memorial service, to mark the 70th anniversary of the death of the British archaeologist and Egyptologist Flinders Petrie. Only one of the people who attended the ceremony at the Protestant Cemetery on Jerusalem's Mount Zion, Israeli archaeologist Shimon Gibson, had ever met the deceased - or at least his head. In 1989, while Gibson was working at the Palestine Exploration Fund in London, he was contacted by the Royal College of Surgeons. "They asked me," Gibson said at the ceremony, "to help identify a head preserved in a jar. They weren't sure it belonged to Petrie," Gibson related.

Just to be clear, Petrie kept track of his own head as long as he needed it. It was later misplaced by others.

Background here.

Another review of Friedman, The Aleppo Codex

MATTI FRIEDMAN'S THE ALEPPO CODEX is reviewed by Stephanie Saldaña in Haaretz: And the bible codex was not consumed.

At the root of the complex story of the Crown of Aleppo are two very different ideas about what exile means and who represents the Jewish people. For many of the Jews who left Aleppo in the 1940s and 50s, largely immigrating not to Israel but to New York and more far-flung countries, Aleppo had been home, the crown a symbol of their ancient and vibrant community. For them, the flight from their city marked not the end but the beginning of exile, and from their perspective the Crown was undoubtedly theirs alone to keep. For Zionist leaders, the Crown, like the Dead Sea Scrolls, became a symbol of a larger Jewish history of exile one that had now triumphantly returned to the newly born Jewish State. The question of how Murad Faham, the Syrian Jew entrusted with spiriting the Codex out of Aleppo and to Israel, comes to hand it over not to the head of the Aleppo community but to the Aliya Department of the Jewish Agency, would create generations of disagreements and a court case, finally resulting in the Aleppo Jewish community losing their greatest treasure.

In describing the current state of the Aleppo Codex, now partially on display in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum, Friedman does not mince words. “The Crown of Aleppo was never given to Israel,” he writes. “It was taken.”
More reviews etc. here and links.

Steinstaltz on Talmud vs. Bible

ADIN STEINSALTZ: Never mind the Bible, it’s the sanity of the Talmud you need to understand the world and yourself: Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, one of the Jewish world’s leading scholars, says Israel would be a less fanatical place if schools were to focus on teaching the Gemara (Raphael Ahren, The Times of Israel).

But Talmud study would be helpful even outside the yeshiva world, Steinsaltz believes. Replacing the Bible as the key book taught in Israel’s schools could help the Jewish state become a more balanced and stable society, he asserts. “The Talmud as a book has the enormous quality that the world needs now more than anything else: sanity,” he told The Times of Israel recently in his study, situated in a serene street of Jerusalem’s Nahlaot quarter.

“The Talmud is the book of sanity. And when you study it, it confers a certain amount of sanity,” posits Steinsaltz, suggesting that the most fanatical rabbis are rarely great Talmudists. After all, the Gemara consists mainly of logical and rational back-and-forth discussions about legal issues, aimed at arriving at a factual truth, he points out. What could be more sane than that?

“It was a big mistake to make the education in Israel based so much on the Bible,” Steinsaltz says, in between puffs of his pipe. “Because the Bible was written by prophets. If you read the Bible, you somehow become in your mind a little prophet. That’s the way in which Israelis speak to each other — they don’t have conversations, they all have complete and unlimited knowledge. Learning Talmud would bring a big change to the Israeli mind, because it deals with and is connected to dialectic.”
Related posts here and links.

Daf Yomi column in Tablet

ADAM KIRSCH has begun a weekly column on the new Daf Yomi cycle in Tablet Magazine. I look forward to it.

A Talmudic Journey Begins: Our book critic dives into Daf Yomi’s daily regimen expecting a law code, but instead finds a chain of questions.

Background here and links.

Bauckham on Talpiot Tomb B inscription again

RICHARD BAUCKHAM: The Greek Ossuary Inscription in Talpiyot Tomb B – (hopefully) the Final Solution (at Mark Goodacre's NT Blog).

I doubt that the debate will end here, but I think Bauckham's solution is quite plausible.

Background here and links.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Diverse Enochiana

Glyn Parry, The Arch Conjuror of England: John Dee (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011)

Egil Asprem, Arguing with Angels: Enochian Magic & Modern Occulture (Albany: SUNY, 2012)
Background reading for my SBL paper for this year: The 94 Books of Ezra and the Angelic Revelations of John Dee.

Egil Asprem's blog, to which I link from time to time, is Heterodoxology. Related post and links here.

New book: Royalty, The Origin of Heresy

Robert M. Royalty, The Origin of Heresy: A History of Discourse in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity (Routledge, 2012)

Heresy is a central concept in the formation of Orthodox Christianity. Where does this notion come from? This book traces the construction of the idea of ‘heresy’ in the rhetoric of ideological disagreements in Second Temple Jewish and early Christian texts and in the development of the polemical rhetoric against ‘heretics,’ called heresiology. Here, author Robert Royalty argues, one finds the origin of what comes to be labelled ‘heresy’ in the second century. In other words, there was such as thing as ‘heresy’ in ancient Jewish and Christian discourse before it was called ‘heresy.’ And by the end of the first century, the notion of heresy was integral to the political positioning of the early orthodox Christian party within the Roman Empire and the range of other Christian communities.

This book is an original contribution to the field of Early Christian studies. Recent treatments of the origins of heresy and Christian identity have focused on the second century rather than on the earlier texts including the New Testament. The book further makes a methodological contribution by blurring the line between New Testament Studies and Early Christian studies, employing ideological and post-colonial critical methods.

Off to the Fringe

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! I am taking the day off and heading down to Edinburgh to check out the Festival Fringe. But I have pre-posted some items, so do check in again a little later today.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Schiffman blog

ASSIMILATED TO THE BLOGOSPHERE: a new blog by Prof. Lawrence H. Schiffman.

(HT Carla Sulzbach on FB.)

More on the iPad Talmud app

SOME BACKGROUND on that iPad Talmud app:
Talmud app publisher walks a digital tightrope

Available only for the most online device ever created, the Artscroll Digital Talmud is designed to be used strictly offline

By David Shamah August 7, 2012, 8:23 am 0 (The Times of Israel)

It might seem strange that a publishing company that is one of the crown jewels of American right-wing Orthodoxy — the wing that opposes using the Internet unless it is absolutely necessary — would choose the iPad as the platform on which to launch a fully annotated English digital translation of the Babylonian Talmud.

After all, the iPad — which is great for watching movies, playing games and downloading news and books — would simply be an expensive paperweight without the Internet.

But Artscroll Mesorah, publishers of the Schottenstein Digital Edition of the Talmud, believes that Orthodox Jews can have iPads and use them for positive, Jewish experiences without having to resort to the Internet for anything but an initial download. “We want people to understand that the same device that can be used for Netflix movies and other things can be used for holy purposes,” said Rabbi Mayer Pasternak, CTO and director of the Artscroll Digital Technology Team.

Besides, Pasternak told The Times of Israel, Artscroll had little choice but to use the iPad if it wanted to develop digital apps. “The Kindle and the Nook don’t understand Hebrew at all, much less the mixed dynamic interactive Hebrew and English that we have on each page.”

The Kindle Fire does “speak Hebrew,” but it’s an Android device — “and because security is so awful on Android devices and the Android operating system’s form factors are so much more complicated, we decided to go for the iPad.”

As it turned out, the iPad was the only device that could handle the complicated iterations of text, hyperlinks, and interconnections between Hebrew and English text that the Artscroll edition of the Babylonian Talmud is made up of, so the company, together with RustyBrick – a programming house that specializes in Jewish apps, such as an interactive “smart” daily prayer book and an app for synagogue sextons — began developing the Talmud app earlier this year. After thousands of hours of grueling work, said RustyBrick CEO Barry Schwartz, the app was completed and released, just in time for the Siyum Hashas — the completion and rededication of the study of the seven-and-a-half-year cycle of the Daf Yomi, the daily study of a page of Talmud.

Rivlin Congratulates Talmud Students

(Arutz Sheva)

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin addressed on Monday, during his remarks at the Knesset plenum, the Siyum Hashas events which took place throughout the country and the world last week.

Background on the Talmud app and on Daf Yomi is here and here and links.

Hugoye 15.2

Volume 15.2 (Summer 2012)


Syriac Manuscripts in India, Syriac Manuscripts from India
Françoise Briquel Chatonnet, Centre National de la Recherche scientifique, Paris

The Christian Library from Turfan: SYR HT 41-42-43, An Early Exemplar of the Ḥuḏrā
Erica C.D. Hunter, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Remarks on Recent Cataloging Efforts among Syriac Manuscripts Preserved at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
Adam McCollum, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, Saint John's University

Review Essay

Review of E.J. Wilson and S. Dinkha, Hunayn Ibn Ishaq's "Questions on Medicine for Students." Transcription and Translation of the Oldest Extant Syriac Version (Vat. Syr. 192)
Grigory Kessel, Phillipps Universität-Marburg

Book Reviews

Li Tang, East Syriac Christianity in Mongol-Yuan China
Thomas A. Carlson, Princeton University

David Thomas and Barbara Roggema, Christian-Muslim Relations: A Bibliographic History. Volume 1 (600-900)
Aaron Michael Butts, Yale University

Romualdo Fernández Ferreira, Símbolos Cristianos en la Antigua Siria
Andrew Palmer, University of Muenster

Adam M. Schor, Theodoret's People: Social Networks and Religious Conflict in Late Roman Syria
Christne Shepherdson, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Kees den Biesen, Annotated Biblography of Ephrem the Syrian
Paul S. Russell, St. Joseph of Arimathea Anglican Theological College

Conference Reports

North American Patristics Society, May 2012

Monday, August 06, 2012

The fake metal codices and SOTS

FAKE METAL CODICES WATCH: Well, it's been a while, but discussion of the Jordan metal codices has come up again, this time at the recent Society for Old Testament Study meeting in July. Jim West has the story here: Members of the Society for Old Testament Study Call on Jordan to Release Information on the ‘Lead Codices’, following up with Some Things Just Need to be Said. Regarding the letter that was submitted to and published by the London Times, I was not at the SOTS meeting and was not asked to sign the letter, but I would not have done so if asked, at least in the form in which it was published.

I see two issues here. The first is the silence of the Jordanian Government about the metal codices. Since they were quite vocal about the importance of the finds initially, their subsequent silence is indeed noteworthy. My guess is that they have figured out that the codices are fakes and are just keeping quiet and hoping the whole issue goes away and spares them further embarrassment. If I am wrong, it would be helpful to hear what they do think and what they are currently doing about the codices, and to that extent I can support the central point of the letter. But I am not optimistic about the Jordanian authorities providing any important new information.

The second issue is the final sentence of the first paragraph of the letter: "There are many indications that these finds are not modern forgeries, but [that] possibility cannot as yet be definitively excluded."* I know of no such "many indications that these finds are not modern forgeries." Many of the codices, including the copper one [bad link now fixed - sorry!] first shown by Mr. Elkington to Classicist Peter Thonemann, are crude and obvious fakes. At least one of the lead ones seems to have been made of ancient lead, but the Oxford metallurgical report that says this (which was initially incorrectly quoted on the Jordan Codices Facebook page) also doubts that the inscribed areas on the lead went through a period of burial. In other words the evidence is consistent with old lead, which is not hard to come by, having been inscribed much more recently to make the codices. (For the report see the video here, especially from about 8:00 on. I make no judgment about how the incorrect quotation came about. See also here.)

I have collected the evidence that the codices are fakes here and here (with links), further discussion of which you can find here, here, and here. The last two and most recent posts were written nearly a year ago. No one has ever systematically addressed my points to show where I am wrong. There is every indication that these objects are modern forgeries (i.e., made within the last century or so, and some indubitably much more recently). In other words, unless stunning revelations were made at this SOTS meeting which have subsequently been kept very quiet, there is no basis for that sentence in the letter and I would not have put my name to it.

If there were real evidence that these metal codices are genuine ancient artifacts, there has been ample time for it to have been published in the peer-review journals in the last year. Since it hasn't, I take it that such evidence is wanting. Of course the possibility that some of them somewhere are genuine cannot be definitively excluded, but at this point the contingency is so remote as to be uninteresting.

My most recent posts involving the fake metal codice are here and here. Their links should lead you back through the whole labyrinth of posts on the subject going back to March of 2011.

I know I am repeating myself here, but unless and until someone comes up with some new, interesting information, there isn't a lot more to say. Efforts to revive the discussion should be resisted unless such new information is produced.

*I correct the quotation based on the scan of the original.

Slavonic Apocrypha postdocs



A postdoctoral fellowship in Research Group D-4 “Immaterial Causes and Physical Space” of Excellence Cluster 264 Topoi is now open to applicants who have obtained exemplary results in their doctoral studies in the field of Slavonic Philology (with a special emphasis on old church Slavonic language and apocryphal literature). Pursuant to DFG guidelines, the fellowship will be awarded for two years and will include a stipend of between 1468 and 1500 Euros per month (including research allowance). A child allowance will be made available in accordance with DFG guidelines.

In the research group, whose subject area deals with immaterial causes and their effects on physical space, a project is carried out by the supervisor on Lingua Sacra and Apocrypha. In this framework, the recipient should pursue an original research project on editions and translations of Slavonic Apocrypha. A prerequisite is a proven knowledge of Old Church Slavonic and ability to work with manuscripts, and desirable is the ability to translate Slavonic Apocrypha into English.

The project advisor will be Prof. Dr. Florentina Badalanova Geller of the FU Berlin.

The Formation and
Transformation of Space
and Knowledge in Ancient Civilizations
Cluster Agency (Dahlem)
Freie Universität Berlin
Hittorfstr. 18
14195 Berlin, Germany
fon: +49.30.838-57271
fax: +49.30.838-53770
Cluster Agency (Mitte)
zu Berlin
Hannoversche Str. 6
10115 Berlin, Germany
fon: +49.30.2093-99073
fax: +49.30.2093-99080

Application deadline and documents
Applications, together with the documents listed below, should be emailed to by August 15.

For more information, please visit und www.berlinerantike-
Application documents:
�� Cover letter (2 - 3 pages)
�� Résumé
�� Official copies of degree certificates
�� Two letters of recommendation
�� Writing sample (15 - 20 pages)
(From the Agade list.)

"Immaterial Causes and Physical Space?" I guess 2 Enoch does qualify.

Prof. Florentina Badalanova Geller has recently published an English translation of Slavonic 2 Enoch. I saw her just the week before last at the CBL conference. Follow the latter link and this one for more links on Old Church Slavonic and Slavonic Pseudepigrapha.

UPDATE (11 August): The deadline has been extended.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

A brief history of Talmud technology

DAF YOMI COMPLETION UPDATE: Talmud tech history for Siyum HaShas (Adam Soclof, JTA, The Archive Blog).

Maybe in the next few cycles we'll get a direct cerebral download, which would save a lot of effort.

Background here and links. Cross-file under "Technology Watch."

Another adventure for the Phoenicia?

THE GOOD SHIP PHOENICIA may go on a voyage to America: British adventurer's plan to sail replica of Phoenician sailing boat across Atlantic: A British adventurer plans to sail a replica of a Phoenician sailing boat across Atlantic, to prove that the New World could have been reached a thousand years before Columbus. (Paul Kendall, The Telegraph)
Now, if he can raise the further £100,000 he says would need in order to embark on the new voyage Mr Beale hopes to challenge another historical assumption – that America was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1592. He believes the Phoenicians could have crossed the Atlantic almost a thousand years earlier, starting from the Azores Islands, off the coast of modern-day Morocco.

The voyage would take two or three months, he said. "We'd take the ship to Carthage in Tunisia, and from there sail it out of the Med, probably to the Canaries, and then just let the sails go, heading towards America's east coast, and see where the winds take us," he said.

"To some degree, it would be a game of chance. We would probably land somewhere like Florida or the Caribbean, but could chug up the coast to be in New York in time for the opening of the exhibition in the autumn."
This sounds like an insanely dangerous idea to me. If he does it, I hope he adds a few modern concessions to the ship's inventory such as an emergency radio and a good stock of Vitamin C.

Background on the Phoenicia and her earlier circum-African voyage is here and links.

Review of Pagels, Revelations

ELAINE PAGELS'S REVELATIONS is reviewed by Prof. Greg Carey in the Huffington Post: Elaine Pagels on Revelation -- and Revelations. Excerpts:
The bottom line is that, while Pagels aspires to present a sympathetic picture of the broad expanse of Christian revelatory literature, she really doesn't like Revelation. (For my own three-part series on Revelation, see part one, part two and part three.) Pagels' conclusion laments that the church has largely stuck with "apocalyptic polarities" at the expense of Gnostic revelations that "speak of the kinship of all beings with one another and with God," judging that "we need such universal visions now more than ever" (p. 176). I doubt that many readers who actually work through the Gospel of Truth and Thunder, Perfect Mind will come away with the same impression.
I'm not so sure about that. Ridley Scott made a Prada commercial using Thunder, Perfect Mind. An ancient text with that kind of modern appeal sounds like a pretty universal vision to me.

Earlier reviews etc. here and links.