Saturday, October 27, 2012

GJW and the Failure of Early Christian Studies

ALIN SUCIU: Guest Post: Timothy Pettipiece – Jesus’ Wife and the Failure of Early Christian Studies.
The real interest of this fragment, assuming its authenticity, is to underscore the immense and ongoing diversity of opinions within the early church during the 2nd and 3rd centuries. This sophisticated analysis, which scholars of early Christianity have been building for over a century (and which is arguably more offensive to conservative Christian sensibilities than Jesus’ marriage), is simply not part of the general public’s imagination.
Background on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is here and links.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Another Cross obituary

Frank Moore Cross, 91
A first-rate biblical scholar, but a dedicated teacher first

By Tania deLuzuriaga

Harvard Staff Writer

Thursday, October 25, 2012

“My students have given me the greatest pleasure,” said Bible scholar Frank Moore Cross, who retired from Harvard in 1992. “I have always had the view that the first task of a scholar is to pass knowledge and understanding of method and the tools of his field from one generation to the next.”

He traveled the world unearthing and interpreting religious texts from a forgotten time. His nearly 300 academic papers deepened humanity’s understanding of the time and place in which three of the world’s major religions would take root. And yet, over the course of a career that spanned five decades, Frank Moore Cross always returned to the classroom, teaching until his retirement in 1992, and advising more than 100 doctoral dissertations in the process.

“My students have given me the greatest pleasure,” he once told the editor of the Bible Review. “I have always had the view that the first task of a scholar is to pass knowledge and understanding of method and the tools of his field from one generation to the next.”

Yes. He held his students to the highest standards, while patiently explaining when we didn't understand and being understanding and supportive if one of us was having problems outside of our academic work. I never saw him irritable or impatient. I like to think that I have been able to apply some of what I saw in him to my work with my own students.

He could be a formidable critic in his classes and our doctoral seminar, but his comments were always constructive and leavened with sympathetic humor. I remember once he opened his response to a student seminar paper with, "I should begin by saying that this is a good paper on a very difficult topic. But enough of fulsome praise. ..."
Friends and colleagues remembered Cross as a consummate gentleman, with a dry wit and varied interests. He studied ancient texts, yet had a penchant for fast sports coupes. He read and wrote in several “dead” languages, even as he kept his Southern accent. He wore a bow tie to the classroom, and took up backpacking in his 40s, embarking on several long trips through the wilderness with his wife, Betty Anne. A lifelong swimmer, he learned to scuba dive in his 60s so that he could conduct underwater archaeology in the Middle East.

“His interests were incredible,” said Harvard Divinity School Professor Paul D. Hanson. “He was always cultivating some hobby.”
Indeed. I found out late in my time at Harvard that he was an avid science fiction reader, as I was and still am. Somehow the topic came up once when I was meeting with him in his office about one of my dissertation chapters. We started talking about SF and I had the surreal experience of debating the merits of a particular design for a starship drive with Frank Moore Cross.

Also once when some of us took him out to lunch to thank him for doing a special readings course with us, he mentioned in passing that he much preferred the idea of a cyclical big-bang big-crunch universe to an open universe that just faded out into cold and darkness.

A couple of small corrections:
When Albright and his students were given exclusive access to some of the scrolls, Cross was allocated the often fragmented texts of Cave No. 4.
This makes it sound as though Albright and his students made up the original team of editors. But actually Cross was just one of a group of editors from more varied backgrounds, including J. T. Milik, John Strugnell, and John Allegro. Cross was the last surviving member of the original team.

Also, Cross was allocated the biblical fragments from Cave 4, not the whole lot.
Cross came to Harvard’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations in 1957, having completed stints at Wellesley College and McCormick Seminary. By then, he was making regular trips to the Middle East to see and authenticate scrolls, journeys that often involved arduous plane rides, shoddy communications, and unsavory characters. Work sometimes entailed crawling through caves in 120-degree heat, negotiating with corrupt antiquities dealers, or excavating an archaeological site while bombs went off in the distance.

“It was very cloak-and-dagger,” Machinist said. “Israel was a newly created state, and the whole region precipitated on war.”

In a newspaper article about a trip to Lebanon in 1967, Cross recalled landing in Beirut to procure a collection of newly found scrolls. After proving his identity to an intermediary, he was directed to stand alone on a particular street corner one night, was picked up in a nondescript car, and was driven through the back roads of the city to a mansion where negotiations began. Unfortunately, the transaction fell through when the Arab-Israeli War broke out.
I heard him tell that story too. He said he was terrified when he got into the car, until he realized that Kando was in it waiting for him.

More obituaries and memorials here and links.

Amulet auction in Tel Aviv

FOR YOU, SPECIAL DEAL: Amulet collection spanning 8,000 years is up for grabs at T.A. auction: The starting prices for the amulets, which come from the collection of antiquities dealer and amulet collector Lenny Wolfe, range from $25 to $5,000. (Haaretz). Excerpt:
A second-century figure of a mouse, whose starting price is listed as $300, was meant to protect against mice in the pantry, and a clenched fist from the second or third century was thought to keep evil spirits, demons and bad luck at bay.

In some cultures the clenched fist was seen as a rude gesture, much like sticking up one's middle finger today, said Wolfe, and the "negative nature of the amulet served to protect against evil."

The medieval scholar Maimonides, as well as rabbis in the talmudic era, prohibited Jews from using amulets, especially those made from parts of animals. But the fact that they were banned indicates that they may already have been in widespread use.

"When there are prohibitions, you have to look for the politics behind them," said Wolfe. "On the one hand, they banned use of amulets. On the other hand, sometimes the custom was allowed, but only for specific people, a small circle of friends." All the same, many of the amulets in the collection have Hebrew inscriptions and are connected to Judaism.
It seems that many of these are modern, but if you do happen to buy an ancient one, please consider donating it to a museum. Or at least make sure to make it available to specialists who want to study it. Publications on the piece will only make it more valuable.

Elad in the news

POLITICS: TAU to take part in East Jerusalem dig funded by pro-settlement group: Silwan residents say excavations in City of David promote Elad's political agenda. Tel Aviv University: It's an academic project (Haaretz). Excerpt:
Critics question the role of Elad in the dig. “It's hard to believe that the Antiques Authority, with its meager budget, has suddenly found sources to fund someone else's projects,” says archaeologist Yoni Mizrachi of Emek Shaveh.

TAU archaeologist Prof. Rafael Greenberg, another Emek Shaveh activist, is more outspoken: “This is a clear politicization of research. Whoever is familiar with the area is aware that all the diggings are annexed to Elad, supervised by Elad, and separate from the site of the City of David. In practice, the project is to become part of Elad's settlement drive.”

Rejecting the criticism, TAU Institute of Archaeology Director Prof. Oded Lipschitstold Haaretz that academic standards would be maintained. “The heart of biblical archaeology is in Jerusalem and the City of David. For that reason, I approached the Antiquities Authority and expressed our will to carry out work in the area,” Lipschits said. “The goal of the digging at the City of David is to carry out a form of 'clean' archaeology. Of course the project has to take into consideration the elements active in the site and running the national park. We will cooperate with Elad, since they run the site, but we will maintain our standards. We won't agree to be subjected to political interests."
For background on Elad, see here and links.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Kabbalah 28

CHERUB PRESS has just announced the publication of a new volume of Kabbalah: Journal for the Study of Jewish Mystical Texts:
Kabbalah, Volume 28 (2012)
320 pp. [English and Hebrew] ISBN 1-933379-31-6


Studies in English
Daniel Abrams: ‘The Becoming of the Hasidic Book’ – An Unpublished Article by Joseph Weiss: Study, Edition and English Translation
Jonatan Meir: Marketing Demons – Joseph Perl, Israel Baal Shem Tov and the History of One Amulet
Moshe Idel: Solomon Maimon and Kabbalah

Studies in Hebrew
Daniel Abrams: Gershom Scholem and the Book Bahir
Gideon Bohak: Gershom Scholem and Jewish Magic
Shraga Bar-On: The Yom Kippur Lots – Rationalism, Manticism and Mysticism
Leore Sachs Shmueli: Seder Gan Eden – Critical Edition and Study (with annotations by Gershom Scholem)
Avraham Elqayam: Nudity in the Sanctus Sanctorum: Philo and Plotinus on Nudity, Esthetics and Sanctity

Peer review and the GJW

MARK GOODACRE has some observations about how the online Gospel of Jesus' Wife controversy is affecting peer review: The Jesus' Wife Fragment and the Transformation of Peer Review?

I like to post informal drafts of my work (usually conference papers) so I can get online feedback before peer review even comes up. Most of the time the best informal feedback I get comes from the discussion at the conference, but I've not posted anything online that would get the kind of attention and scrutiny that Professor King's paper on the GJW has received.

Background here and links.


PUNIC WATCH: Owen Jarus has posted a capsule history of Carthage at Live Science: Carthage: Ancient Phoenician City-State.

The Sota Project

Sota Project’: Sealed With a Kiss

by Jonathan Maseng, Contributing Writer []

The Talmud is on display this month at the USC Fisher Museum of Art, but if you’re expecting a dry examination of rabbinic law and ethics, you’ve come to the wrong place. Ofri Cnaani’s “The Sota Project” offers a daring and even graphic take on Jewish views of adultery, sexuality and sisterhood through a little-known but fascinating piece of talmudic text.

Sitting in a conference room at the Fisher Museum’s offices, Cnaani was excited to discuss “The Sota Project,” though a little disappointed to hear she’d missed out on Los Angeles’ long-running heat wave. Born in Israel in 1975, Cnaani immigrated to the United States a decade ago to study art at New York’s Hunter College MFA program, and though she apparently misses the warm Israeli summers, she’s found great success in the States and in the New York art world, where her work has been on display at prestigious places like MOMA’s PS1 and the Andrea Meislin Gallery. Her exhibition at the Fisher Museum marks her Los Angeles debut, and she seems particularly excited to be showing a piece like “The Sota Project,” which is so close to her heart.

The kiss is a kiss of death.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cross SBL session

A SPECIAL SESSION in honor of Frank Moore Cross has been arranged for the Chicago meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature next month:
There will be a special session at SBL honoring the memory of Frank
Moore Cross (1921-2012), on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 5:00 p.m. (room
TBA). Friends and colleagues are invited to pay tribute to the memory
of this great scholar, mentor and teacher.

Sidnie White Crawford
Willa Cather Professor of Classics and Religious Studies
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Chair of the Board of Trustees
W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research
See you there!

Background here and links

Wiesel lecture

ELIE WIESEL has given a lecture at BU on martyrdom in the Talmud:
Martyrdom, suicide, sins spark Elie Wiesel lecture

Written by Regine Sarah Capungan (The Daily Free Press)
Published Oct 23, 2012

Boston University professor Elie Wiesel addressed the perceptions surrounding martyrdom and suicide in Jewish culture as he spoke before hundreds of students Monday night.

In Wiesel’s lecture, “In the Talmud: Is Martyrdom or Sanctification of His Name a Valid Response?” he focused on whether the act of martyrdom was accepted or legal in Jewish culture.

He said suicide is forbidden in Judaism, as life is always of greater importance than death.


Wiesel drew on examples from religious texts to support his argument. He gave an illustration of martyrdom by introducing the three largest sins of Judaism: idolatry, or worship of a false idol, murder and adultery.

Wiesel used the story of Rabbi Hanina as an example of martyrdom. Hanina defied Roman law and taught the Torah. As a result, Hanina was sentenced to death and Roman soldiers burned him to death at the stake as punishment.

“We are always amazed at the life and death of these great teachers,” Wiesel said.

Incidentally, R. Hanina is one of the martyrs in the traditional Legend of the Ten Martyrs and he plays an important role in the rather idiosyncratic version of the story in the Hekhalot Rabbati. See the link for details.

New book on Philo of Alexandria

Philo of Alexandria
A Thinker in the Jewish Diaspora

By Mireille Hadas-Lebel, Professor emeritus at Paris-Sorbonne

Philo (20BCE?-45CE?) is the most illustrious son of Alexandrian Jewry and the first major scholar to combine a deep Jewish learning with Greek philosophy. His unique allegorical exegesis of the Greek Bible was to have a profound influence on the early fathers of the Church. Philo was, above all, a philosopher, but he was also intensely practical in his defence of the Jewish faith and law in general, and that of Alexandria’s embattled Jewish community in particular. A famous example was his leadership of a perilous mission to plead the community’s cause to Emperor Caligula. This monograph provides a guide to Philo's life, his thought and his action, as well as his continuing influence on theological and philosophical thought.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cross memorial update

HERSHEL SHANKS'S MEMORIAL TO FRANK MOORE CROSS has now been updated with the addition of memorials written by Cross's students and others, including the one I published on PaleoJudaica last week.

Background here and links.

Collins on the DSS

JOHN J. COLLINS: Dead Sea Scrolls: What Have We Learned? at the Huffington Post.
The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered near the site of Qumran, south of Jericho in the years 1947-1956 were dubbed "the academic scandal of the 20th century" because of the long delay in publication. Over the last 20 years or so, however, they have been fully published, except for occasional scraps that continue to come to light. Ever since their discovery, they have aroused passions on a scale that is extraordinary for an academic subject. Now that those passions have cooled, the time is ripe to ask what we have really learned from this remarkable discovery.

UPDATE: Over at Remnant of Giants, Deane Galbraith flags a comment to the above. This is a good illustration of why I don't enable comments at PaleoJudaica.

Lice on the Sabbath and related issues

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN from Adam Kirsch at Tablet: Of Lice and Men: Study of the Talmud’s second tractate reveals how the rabbis stuck to logic and made it sacred.
Reading the first pages of the tractate on Shabbat over the last weeks, I was struck by the way this emphasis on Torah study allows the rabbis to sacralize what is, on its face, often a strictly intellectual, logical, even mathematical kind of thinking. When we communicate with God in prayer, we tend to focus on emotions. We feel elevated by thinking about our love for God and his for us, or we declare our devotion or repentance. All of this is encouraged by the emotive language of the prayer service.

The opening pages of Shabbat, however, could not be more rigorously logical. In Shabbat 2a, the Mishnah presents us with a situation in which a householder is standing inside the boundary of his house, while a poor man is facing him while standing in the street, in the public domain. Say that the men transfer an object from one domain to the other, from the private zone to the public or vice versa—something that is legally prohibited on Shabbat. Which one is culpable for breaking for the law?
And, yes, lice do figure in the discussion. Ick.

Earlier columns are noted here and links.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Cross obituary in The Crimson

Hebrew Bible Scholar and Devoted Mentor Frank Moore Cross Passes Away at 91

Published: Monday, October 22, 2012

Friends and family mourned the passing of former professor Frank Moore Cross—a loving father, a wild mushroom and rhododendron enthusiast, and a great scholar of the Hebrew Bible.

The former Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at the Harvard Divinity School passed away on Wednesday in Rochester, New York, at age 91.

“It really is the end of an era,” said Professor Peter Machinist ’66, a colleague and former student of Cross.

Cross is renowned for his contributions to the interpretation of the Dead Sea Scrolls­ and for serving as a dedicated and inspring mentor to many students over the years. Cross advised over 100 dissertations during his 35 years as a profesor at Harvard.

Background here and links.

Review of Henze (ed.), A Companion to Biblical Interpretation in Early Judaism

Matthias Henze, ed. A Companion to Biblical Interpretation in Early Judaism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012. 584 pp. $29.99 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8028-0388-7.

Reviewed by Don Carlson (Xavier University)
Published on H-Judaic (October, 2012)
Commissioned by Jason Kalman

A Useful Survey of Early Jewish Biblical Interpretation

A Companion to Biblical Interpretation in Early Judaism, edited by Matthias Henze, seeks to provide “a systematic introduction to biblical interpretation in the Jewish literature of antiquity” (p. ix). The Companion includes eighteen essays, under eight headings: “Introduction,” “The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament,” “Rewritten Bible,” “The Qumran Literature,” “Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments,” “Wisdom Literature,” “Hellenistic Judaism,” and “Biblical Interpretation in Antiquity.” A short bibliography is conveniently provided at the end of each essay, as well as a cumulative bibliography and indices at the end of the book.