Saturday, October 20, 2012

More on Frank Cross

THE NEW YORK TIMES has published an obituary for Frank Cross: Frank Moore Cross, Biblical Scholar, Dies at 91.
“When you walked into his classes, you felt you were on the frontier of knowledge in the field,” said Peter Machinist, who studied under Dr. Cross as an undergraduate at Harvard and now holds the endowed professorship there that Dr. Cross had held until his retirement in 1992. “Whatever happened in the field would come to him first, before it got published, because people wanted to know what he thought.”
Regarding the photo, I was working at the Ashkelon dig when the bowl he was looking at was discovered (it bore a Phoenician inscription) and I remember him out in the field in that shirt.

Other tributes to Professor Cross have been published by Hershel Shanks (The End of an Era: Frank Moore Cross (1921-2012), BAR) and by Jonathan Rosenbaum, another of his students (Frank Moore Cross: An Appreciation, ASOR Blog). And Chuck Jones has collected some bibliography at AWOL: Frank Moore Cross in JSTOR.

Background here.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Jesus the shaman?

EGIL ASPREM: Jesus was a … shaman (heterodox Christologies II) (Heterodoxology). A review of the idea which ranges from the recent and serious (Craffert, cf. here) to the nineteenth century and goofy. With pauses at modern Norwegian headlines and Giordano Bruno at the stake.

Elig's heterodox Christology I is noted here.

Somewhat related material on shamanism is here, here, and here. See also here.

Og revisited

DEANE GALBRAITH: The Origin of the Giant King Og of Bashan (Remnant of Giants).
The likelihood, therefore, is that Og’s name preceded his invention, in the Bible, as a person.
Something like that sounds plausible to me.

Earlier posts on Og the giant are here, here, here and links.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Frank Moore Cross, 1921-2012

REPORTS ARE COMING IN from many sources that my beloved doctoral supervisor Frank Moore Cross passed away peacefully yesterday, aged 91. I studied with Professor Cross at Harvard University from 1983 to 1988, writing a dissertation under him on unpublished manuscripts of Genesis and Exodus from Qumran Cave 4, one of the last of the over 100 dissertations he supervised.

I read Northwest Semitic inscriptions and Ugaritic with him, and also took his class on the textual criticism of 1-2 Samuel. I recall spending endless hours in the library vocalizing arcane texts with Sidnie White (Crawford), Julie Duncan, and Russ Fuller for his classes. He also graciously agreed to do a special readings course in early Hebrew poetry with Sidnie, Julie, and me toward the end of our time in the NELC program. Among ourselves we referred to him as "FMC," but our other nickname for him (never to his face, although I bet Sidnie told him about it later) was "El," the mighty head of the Canaanite pantheon. It was the beard, you see. Along with the regal sense of authority and wisdom.

As a student I was terrified of him, although he was always thoughtful and kind to me, as to all his students. I learned vastly from him, not only about Semitic philology and paleography, but also about academic politics and scholars as people. He was an excellent teacher who expected and got the very best from his students, and he also taught by example, just by being who he was. He had a wry sense of humor and he had endless entertaining stories. It was very important to him to get to know each student as an individual and to keep track of his students' careers once they had graduated. He told us once in class how frustrating it was for him to run into an old student at a conference and immediately to remember that student's dissertation topic, every position the student had held since graduating, and the name of the student's spouse and children, but not to be able to remember that student's name. Then he said that when this happened (and I'm sure it was exceedingly rare), he would tell the story about how William Foxwell Albright was once introducing Cross and David Noel Freedman at length and with great praise about how they were two of his star students, and then Albright couldn't remember either of their names.

Frank's influence on me is extensive, wide-ranging, and pervasive. Some of what I learned from him took years to sink in. His influence in many fields has been enormous: Hebrew Bible, Northwest Semitic epigraphy, Ugaritic, and, of course, the Dead Sea Scrolls. And a great many of the scholars who entered those fields in the twentieth century were trained by him. On Facebook, Sidnie writes "He was, for me, the real Teacher of Righteousness." Amen to that. And as Jack Sasson said on the Agade List, "Truly, the end of an era."

A Wikipedia biography is here. Some past PaleoJudaica posts mentioning him are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The gracious gods are welcoming him into their midst. Requiescat in pace, Frank.

UPDATE (26 October): More here, here, here, here, and here. I have posted some more of my own memories at the last link.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Resurrected Beer

WHAT WOULD THE LOST TRIBES DRINK? Lost Tribes Beer Co. Resurrects Ancient Brews (JTA/The Forward).
According to the company’s website, “2,700 years ago, ten of the twelve tribes were sent into exile, eventually settling across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Legend has it that one day the tribes will return home bearing gifts from their lands. We’ve discovered that each tribe holds a unique crew [read "brew"? - ed.] recipe – we believe that their brews were the gifts they were meant to bring home.”

Lost Tribes sells three beer lines: a pale ale they call Shikra, an Aramaic word for alcoholic beverage; Tej, an Ethiopian-adapted recipe of honey and herbs that is kosher for Passover; and a low-calorie option called Light.
I have my doubts about the historical rationale, but the beers sound nice.

Related post here.

Daf Yomi column: Berakhot

ADAM KIRSCH has posted a new Daf Yomi column at Tablet Magazine: The Rabbis’ Mental World: The last chapter of the first tractate brings modern readers back to sex, bowel movements, and thunder.
The first eight chapters of Berachot are composed primarily of halakhah, or Jewish law—close legal and textual reasoning about the correct timing, manner, and language of the major Jewish prayers. Aggadah, the folklore and anecdotes and proverbs that constitute the more imaginative and accessible part of the Talmud, comes in the interstices of the halakhic argument. But chapter nine of Berachot is just about all aggadah—a cornucopia of rabbinic views on subjects ranging from meteorology to embryology to bathroom etiquette to dream interpretation. “Turn it and turn it, for everything is in it,” Pirkei Avot famously says of the Torah, and this section of the Berachot seems like the kind of thing Ben Bag-Bag had in mind.
The content is too varied to excerpt usefully (read it all), but here's one paragraph of interest:
All of this raised the question for me of how contemporary Orthodox readers make sense of parts of the Talmud, like this one, that are based on clearly erroneous scientific ideas. When Aristotle makes empirical mistakes—as, for instance, when he says that women have fewer teeth than men—it’s easy to say that he was simply wrong, that he lacked modern ideas of scientific observation and method. With the Talmud, which grounds religious obligations on its empirical assertions, things must be more complicated. I’m sure much thought has been given to this problem and—as always—I would be grateful to hear from knowledgeable readers in the comments.
It happens that the Jewish Press published an article by Harry Maryles yesterday on this very issue: Rav Elyashiv, Torah and Science: It is very troubling that there are those who say insist that it is forbidden to believe that Chazal were mistaken in matters of science. There are just too many instances of nature quoted in the Gemarah that contradict what we know today.

Kirsh's earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here, here here, here, and here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The death of rabbinics?

MICHAEL SATLOW: Rabbinics must die (The Talmud Blog).
The fundamental problem is that “rabbinics” implies both a body of literature and a distinctive methodology or approach to that literature. In some quarters in Israel this perhaps accurately describes, for good or bad, how rabbinic literature is studied (e.g., philologically in a “department” of Talmud). In the American academy, however, “rabbinics” is not a discipline. Those of us who primarily use rabbinic literature are situated in departments of religious studies (most frequently), language and culture, and history. We are scholars trained in a particular discipline who use rabbinic texts for our data. I do not “do rabbinics.” I “do” Jewish history in antiquity, using rabbinic texts as one (even if it is the primary) set of sources.
I don't have a horse in this race: if specialists in "rabbinics" want to call it something else now, that's okay with me. But I do think that the field of the study of the rabbinic literature needs to be called something. Also, I think the death of "patristics" is somewhat exaggerated and, again, we need to be able to call the study of the corpus of church fathers something. I consider myself a specialist in (inter alia) "late antiquity," and I know very little indeed about "patristics," so I don't consider the former term a good replacement for the latter.

To put my point more broadly, it is a fine thing that older fields are increasingly embedded and cross-fertilized in a larger interdisciplinary framework (e.g., Jewish history in antiquity or the study of late antiquity). But the narrower disciplines still exist and still need to be called something. I work in both Jewish history in antiquity and in the study of late antiquity, but I do so drawing on, for example, Qumran studies and Pseudepigrapha studies (which are coherent fields in themselves—although some may disagree with me about Pseudepigrapha).

Let us indeed be clear what we are talking about, but this involves precision as well as synthesis. I am hesitant to abandon the older more precise terms until either they are replaced individually with something better defined or I am convinced of a cognitive gain in abandoning the precision they represent.

There is an important discussion to be had here.

Divine Vintage


UPDATE (17 October): related post here.

French consul general: Qumran caves in "Palestine"

Israel accuses French diplomat of ‘helping Palestinians rewrite history’


Israel’s foreign ministry has accused France’s consul general in Jerusalem of “denying Jewish connection to the Land of Israel.”

The statement by Yigal Palmor, a spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, came in response to remarks made last month by Consul General Frederic Desagneaux in a speech on archeology. He spoke of “the important archaeological projects that French archaeologists had helped to uncover in Palestine,” including the Qumran Caves.

Desagneaux also praised French archaeologists for “helping to discover Palestine.” An approved copy of his speech mentions, in this context, the Qumran Caves, where archaeologists discovered the collection of biblical texts knows as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The text does not contain the word “Jewish” and Israel appears in it once, in a sentence about the “Israelo-Palestinian conflict.”


Monday, October 15, 2012

Rollston update

INSIDE HIGHER ED has more information about the current situation with Christopher Rollston at Emmanuel Christian College. PaleoJudaica is also quoted. I have updated the relevant post from 10 October here.

Doctoral fellowship at Vienna

A "PRE-DOC" FELLOWSHIP in Jewish Studies is being advertised by the University of Vienna. Eibert Tigchelaar has posted it on the IOQS list in German and English versions. I copy the English below:
At the University of Vienna (15 faculties, 3 centres, about 188 fields of study, approx. 9.400 members of staff, more than 90.000 students) the position of a

University Assistant (prae doc)
at the Department of Jewish Studies

is vacant.

Identification number of advertisement: 3469

The Vienna Institute for Jewish Studies covers the study and teaching of Judaism from its beginnings until today. The advertised positions concern a) the field of Ancient Judaism and b) the field of medieval and modern Judaism.

Extent of Employment: 30 hours/week
Occupation group in accordance with collective bargaining agreement: §48 VwGr. B1 Grundstufe (praedoc)
On top of this relevant chargeable work experience determines the assessment to a particular salary grade.

Areas of work:
The advertised positions involve a wide range of responsibilities including the cooperation in research and teaching (either in the are of Ancient Judaism or the area of medieval and modern Judaism) as well as involvement in the organization of conferences and research projects: - Participation in research projects - Preparation /Finalization of a (publishable) dissertation thesis - Holding classes due to extent regulations of wage agreement - Examination activities - Support of students - Participation in administration of the institute. Position a focuses on ancient Judaism, position b on medieval and modern Judaism. For position a (ancient Judaism) Hebrew, ancient Greek, Aramaic, German and English are required. For position b (medieval and modern Judaism) Hebrew, German, English, and Jiddish are required.

MA or equivalent degree in Jewish studies or a comparable field of study documenting scholarly excellence

Excellence in oral and written expression, ability to work in teams

Research fields:
Main research field
Special research fields Importance
Other Philological and Cultural Sciences
Judaism CAN

Educational institution
Educational level Special subject Importance
Humanities - MUST

Language level Importance
Good knowledge SHOULD
Ancient Greek
Good knowledge SHOULD
Excellent knowledge MUST
Excellent knowledge MUST
Good knowledge SHOULD
Excellent knowledge MUST

Type of computer skills
Specified computer skills Importance
Basic Knowledge
Basic Knowledge
Internet knowledge MUST

Applications including a letter of motivation (German or English) should be sent via Job Center to the University of Vienna ( no later than 29.10.2012 and be referenced to the identification number 3469.

For further information please contact Lange, Armin +43-1-4277-43313.

The University of Vienna intends to increase the number of women on its faculty, particularly in high-level positions, and therefore specifically invites applications by women. Among equally qualified applicants women will receive preferential consideration.

Human Resources and Gender Equality of the University of Vienna
Identification number of advertisement: 3469

Praying for a third temple

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Why I pray for a third temple: In the first of a two-part series, Jewish World blogger Dr. Samuel Lebens explores his complex relationship with the Temple Mount and with those who want to rebuild the temple (Haaretz).
The desire to run up on to the Temple Mount, to demolish a mosque and a shrine, and to force our temple in to its place, is the desire to force the end; it is the desire to insert messianic notions of peace into our pre-messianic world. It can only result in evil and bloodshed and runs against the probing insight of the Talmudic sages. So, I can agree with readers of Haaretz if they conclude that Littman’s subjects are dangerous, fringe and extreme.

But I cannot agree that the very notion of a third temple is outmoded and absurd, nor is it extreme. In fact, it is mainstream. Every Jew who ever says the central Amida prayer, or recites a traditional Grace After Meals, prays for the rebuilding of the temple. To jettison the idea is to place yourself outside of the mainstream, and onthe extreme.
There is actually historical precedent for a Judean temple cult that eschews animal sacrifice. The rebuilt Judean temple at Elephantine, Egypt, was founded with such a system in the late fifth century BCE as agreed by the Persian authorities.

That said, I am opposed to any building or excavation (except future non-invasive/non-destructive scientific archaeological excavation) on the Temple Mount for practical reasons that I have explained repeatedly and at some length, if not tedium. I am also extremely wary of utopianism in any of its myriad forms.

Background here and links. Cross-file under "Politics."

More on the Maronite Aramaic revival

ARAMAIC WATCH: Maronite Christians Seek To Revive Aramaic Language: Ancient Israeli Minority Hopes To Win Communal Recognition (The Forward).
At this unique summer camp, some 85 children were being immersed in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke and in which the Gemara — one of the Talmud’s two major books — was written. Once the Middle East’s lingua franca, Aramaic is an almost vanished language today. But the camp organizers and the families of these children hope to resurrect it. Moreover, they aim to carve out a new national identity based on that resurrection.

It’s a campaign that Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the father of Modern Hebrew, would readily understand and, perhaps, applaud. But in today’s Israel, it’s a campaign fraught with controversy.

Aram, the Maronite Christian group that organized the camp, is spending long hours huddling with a team of lawyers, preparing papers to submit to Israel’s Supreme Court later in October. They are seeking formal recognition of their nationality as “Aramaic,” rather than Arab, by the State of Israel.
And then it starts to get complicated.

Background here and links. Cross-file under "Politics."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

New book: Zetterholm, Jewish Interpretation of the Bible

NEW BOOK FROM FORTRESS PRESS: Karin Hedner Zetterholm, Jewish Interpretation of the Bible: Ancient and Contemporary.
Format: Paperback
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9780800697983
Dimensions: 6 x 9
Course Level: Graduate
Item No: ED015058
Release Date: Monday, October 1, 2012

Although Jewish tradition gives tremendous importance to the Hebrew Bible, from the beginning Jewish interpretation of those scriptures has been practiced with remarkable freedom. Karin Hedner Zetterholm introduces the legal, theological, and historical presuppositions that shaped the dominant stream of rabbinic interpretation, including Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrashim, discussing examples of different interpretive methods, and explores the contours of Jewish biblical interpretation evident in the New Testament and the legacy of ancient traditions in the way different Jewish movements read the Bible today. Students of the history of biblical interpretation and of Judaism will find this an important and engaging resource.
Via the Agade List and the Talmud Blog on Facebook.