Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Brannan's tweets on MOTP1 collected

STILL AT IT: As noted a few weeks ago, Rick Brannan is tweeting his way through Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, Volume 1, text by text. He collects all of these tweets to date on his blog here, with one more posted since: "Apocryphon of Ezekiel: Lots of folks through history attribute Bibleish Ezekiely-type stuff to Ezekiel. Here it is, collected." This puts him a little over halfway through the volume in pages and also in texts - the latter if he puts up individual posts for the texts translated by Helen Spurling in the last chapter, "Hebrew Visions of Hell and Paradise."

The fall of the Temple priesthood in the Talmud

LAST WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: In the Talmud, the Fall of a Priestly Upper Class Is Just Deserts. Biblical examples of righteousness and wickedness show that in Judaism, goodness remains possible and divine.
This anecdote suggests, though obliquely, what an enormous upheaval the destruction of the Temple must have created in Judean society. The priestly hierarchy was large and well-established, constituting the upper class of the nation; now they were suddenly rendered useless, like aristocratic émigrés during the French Revolution. There is even a hint of satisfaction in Yishmael’s words. The Talmud makes no secret of the fact that the priests’ ostentation and hunger for prestige sometimes made them unpopular. The fall of the House of Avtinas must have looked to some people like their just deserts.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Sartorial news from ancient Israel

HAARETZ has a couple of recent articles on clothing and its coloring in ancient Israel. First: Pink wool to ponchos: What people in ancient Israel really wore. The man in the dusty street wore a tunic and sandals. The rich could dress so splendidly that they risked being struck down by divine anger (Miriam Feinberg Vamosh).
The wealthy could afford to expand the repertoire of colors in their closet from the earthy tones of the original sheep and goat coats to a rainbow of raiment.

The most costly dye was purple manufactured from the murex snail. But imitation purple for clothing could come from the hyacinth flower, for example. Textiles discovered at Masada included cream, pink and purple, and other colors mentioned in Roman sources include gold, walnut and yellow, all of which came from plants. Scarlet dye came from an insect, the kermes vermilio.

“Costly garments” (Ezekiel 16:10) are mentioned in the Bible – Queen Esther had one (Esther 5:1), and so did Tamar, Amnon’s ill-fated sister (2 Sam. 13:18). The noblewoman mother of the Canaanite general Sisera wore colorful embroidered garments (Judg. 5:30). A wedding dress, according to Psalm 45:13–14, was "embroidered with gold.”
The article is chronologically eclectic, combining information from the Bible, Josephus, the Mishnah, etc., with archaeological evidence from Masada and Qumran. And speaking of that dye from the murex snail ...

Second: Rare find || Fragment containing ancient 'tekhelet' dye discovered near Dead Sea. The precious blue dye, derived from snail glands, was used in ancient times to color the tassels of the four-cornered garment worn by men; this is only the third time such fabric has been found (Judy Maltz).
Announcing the discovery, Dr. Na'ama Sukenik, a curator at the Israel Antiquities Authority, said the tiny piece of fabric had been discovered in the 1950s in a cave at Wadi Murba’at, where Jewish fighters hid during the Bar Kokhba revolt in the second century. As part of her doctoral dissertation at Bar Ilan University, Sukenik recently tested the color found in the fabric and was able to determine that it was derived from the Murex trunchular, a mollusk widely believed to be the marine animal known as the khilazon in the Talmud -- the source of the rare blue dye.
More on the ancient tekhelet dye here and links. Also, lots more on ancient bling (mentioned in the first article) here and links and (sort of) here.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Comptroller's Report leaked?

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: That classified 2010 Israeli State Comptroller's Report on the Waqf's unauthorized excavations on the Temple Mount has reportedly been leaked to The Jewish Voice, which has published the Hebrew original and also an English translation. So far the Israeli Government has declined to comment on its authenticity. The Jerusalem Post summarizes the summary in Classified comptroller report on Temple Mount slams government for failing to protect area from Wakf.

Background here and links.

Dreams, visions, Aramaic, DSS

ANDREW PERRIN: The Dynamics of Dream-Vision Discourse in the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls (ASOR Blog).
In my McMaster University doctoral dissertation, “The Dynamics of Dream-Vision Discourse in the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls,” I explore the form and function of revelatory dream-vision accounts that are interspersed throughout approximately twenty of these texts.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Selwood, The Sword of Moses, and the Templars

DOMINIC SELWOOD: Forget The Da Vinci Code: this is the real mystery of the Knights Templar (The Telegraph). Excerpt:
We simply do not know the answers. But the chapel at Montsaunès is proof, in its own enigmatic way that the religious life of the Templars was not as straightforward as we have perhaps come to believe. As Umberto Eco’s lunatics, and a growing swathe of more ordinary people, prepare to mark the anniversary of Jacques de Molay’s death, there will be discussions about individual freedom and the abuse of power, about political show trials and miscarriages of justice, and about Europe’s transition from theocracy to autocracy. But there will also be time to think again about what knowledge went up in flames with Jacques de Molay, and to the grave with the other knights.

The little-known chapel at Montsaunès reminds us that there is much we still do not know about the Templars, who increasingly baffle us the more we discover about them.

Dominic Selwood's new thriller The Sword of Moses features the Templars, Montsaunès and a number of the themes discussed in this article.
(HT Dorothy Lobel King.)

My reviews of The Da Vinci Code novel and film are here and here. My visit to Rosslyn Chapel is described here. The Sword of Moses is also the title of a late-antique magical treatise in Hebrew and Aramaic. It has recently been translated into English by Yuval Harari and his translation is also forthcoming in volume 2 of the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project.

HB/OT postdoc at Uppsala

STEPHEN C. CARLSON: Uppsala Post-Doc in Hebrew Bible. Knowledge of Swedish is desirable. The application deadline is 15 January.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Zosimus/Rechabites project at Leuven

OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA WATCH: Zosime (Réchabites) is a project on The Story of Zosimus/The History of the Rechabites at the Catholic University of Leuven headed by Prof. Jean-Claude Haelewyck. It includes French translations of the Greek text and two Syriac versions.

I have a couple of relevant conference papers from 2003 online: The Rechabites in Patristic and Parabiblical Literature and Is the Story of Zosimus Really a Jewish Composition?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

J. Wright on the birth of Moses

DR. JACOB L. WRIGHT: The Birth of Moses: Between Bible and Midrash: A Supplementary Approach (TheTorah.com).
What we witness in this brief study is the extent to which rabbinic tradition stands in direct continuity to the formation of the biblical text. The earliest biblical account of Moses’s birth responds to questions about his origins. A later preface responds to the problems posed by the older account, and both texts in turn provoked new attempts by the rabbis to solve the remaining problems in the text. In this way we can trace how the multilayered pearls of our tradition evolved from the agitating sands of time.

SBL 2014


Wednesday, December 25, 2013


MERRY CHRISTMAS to all those celebrating!

Posts of Christmases past are collected here and links.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Oliver, Torah Praxis after 70 CE

Isaac W. Oliver

Torah Praxis after 70 CE
Reading Matthew and Luke-Acts as Jewish Texts

Many consider the gospel of Matthew to be one of the most "Jewish" texts of the New Testament. Luke-Acts, on the other hand, has traditionally been viewed as a very "Greek" and Gentile-Christian text. Isaac W. Oliver challenges this dichotomy, reading Matthew and Luke-Acts not only against their Jewish "background" but as early Jewish literature. He explores the question of Torah praxis, especially its ritual aspects, in each writing. By assessing their attitude toward three central markers of Jewish identity - Sabbath, kashrut, and circumcision - Oliver argues that both Matthew and Luke affirm the perpetuation of Torah observance within the Jesus movement, albeit by differentiating which Mosaic commandments are incumbent upon Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus. Luke proves to be just as "Jewish" as his cousin Matthew in so far as his affirmation of the Mosaic Torah is concerned. The evidence in both Matthew and Luke-Acts suggests that Jewish practices such as the Sabbath and even circumcision continued to enjoy a prominent status in the Jesus movement even after 70 CE, and that Jewish followers of Jesus played an important and integral role in the formation of the ekklesia well throughout the latter third of the first century CE.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Reviews of Olson on the Animal Apocalypse and Martone on the Bar Kokhba letters

1. Andrew Perrin reviews Daniel Olson, A New Reading of the Animal Apocalypse of 1 Enoch: ‘All Nations Shall be Blessed.’

2. Juan C. Ossandón reviews Corrado Martone, Lettere di Bar Kokhba.
The two books have also been noted here and here.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

El-Badawi, The Qur'an and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions

The Qur'an and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions
By Emran El-Badawi

This book is a study of related passages found in the Arabic Qur’an and the Aramaic Gospels, i.e. the Gospels preserved in the Syriac and Christian Palestinian Aramaic dialects. It builds upon the work of traditional Muslim scholars, including al-Biqa‘i (d. ca. 808/1460) and al-Suyu?i (d. 911/1505), who wrote books examining connections between the Qur’an on the one hand, and Biblical passages and Aramaic terminology on the other, as well as modern western scholars, including Sidney Griffith who argue that pre-Islamic Arabs accessed the Bible in Aramaic.

The Qur’an and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions examines the history of religious movements in the Middle East from 180-632 CE, explaining Islam as a response to the disunity of the Aramaic speaking churches. It then compares the Arabic text of the Qur’an and the Aramaic text of the Gospels under four main themes: the prophets; the clergy; the divine; and the apocalypse. Among the findings of this book are that the articulator as well as audience of the Qur’an were monotheistic in origin, probably bilingual, culturally sophisticated and accustomed to the theological debates that raged between the Aramaic speaking churches.

Arguing that the Qur’an’s teachings and ethics echo Jewish-Christian conservatism, this book will be of interest to students and scholars of Religion, History, and Literature.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Review of Norton, Contours in the Text

BOOK REVIEW: Jonathan D. H. Norton. Contours in the Text: Textual Variation in the Writings of Paul, Josephus and the Yahad. Library of New Testament Studies 430; London: T&T Clark, 2011. xiii + 210 pages (PB). ISBN 9780567521996. Reviewed by Garrick V. Allen for Reviews of Biblical and Early Christian Studies. Excerpt:
Overall, Norton interacts with the numerous textual, exegetical, historical, and social issues related to his primary question in a capable manner. The discussion is sophisticated and he is careful to distinguish between concerns that are often conflated in similar studies. Also, his textual acumen and attention to detail are impressive and necessary for a study of this complexity. Norton is also careful to define terms in a way that allows the reader to follow his complex textual reasoning. He is successful in articulating his primary argument and leading his reader through the voluminous textual data that he has accumulated. The coherence of this volume in the face of its complexity is admirable. The most valuable contribution of this volume, however, is Norton’s ability to interact with the textual data while, simultaneously, taking account of the scholarly discussion of Paul’s reuse of scriptural traditions that often minimizes this essential facet.

Review of Lapin, Rabbis as Romans

BOOK REVIEW of Hayim Lapin, Rabbis as Romans: The Rabbinic Movement in Palestine, 100-400 CE, by Nathan Schumer (Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization, YU).

HT the Talmud Blog on Facebook.

Earlier review etc. noted here.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Celebrating a "ginourmas" Talmud manuscript

THE TALMUD BLOG: A Post for the 17th of Tevet (Yitz Landes).
Today’s Hebrew date, the 17th of Tevet, marks the 671st anniversary of the completion of the talmudic section of Munich, Cod. hebr. 95, more commonly referred to as “The Munich Manuscript,” by the scribe R. Shlomo the son of R. Shimshon. ...

Conference on the reception of Philo

CONFERENCE AT YALE UNIVERISITY: Philo's Readers: Affinities, Reception, Transmission and Influence
Philo's Readers: Affinities, Reception, Transmission and Influence" will center around the Jewish philosophical exegete, Philo. A member of the Jewish elite in early Roman Alexandria, Philo explored the meaning of Torah by uniting Second Temple interpretations and traditions with a Greek philosophical orientation. Philo's interpretations, interpretive strategies, and philosophical explanations provide us with a glimpse into ancient Judaism, particularly the world of Alexandria in the first century CE. This conference will situate Philo in his geographical, philosophical, and ideological context, looking for affinities and precursors in other ancient texts. But Philo does not just offer a glimpse into the past. He also provided a framework and a collection of hermeneutical tools that would prove invaluable to future readers. This conference will thus examine Philo's reception and influence, particularly among Jewish and Christian readers.
It takes place on March 30-April 1, 2014. Follow the link for registration information.

Herculaneum in the news

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Unlocking the scrolls of Herculaneum (Robin Banerji, BBC)

A long and very good article on the scrolls recovered from Herculaneum. Much of it is summary rather than anything new, but it is very thorough. It discusses early, largely futile efforts to unroll and read the carbonized scrolls in the 1980s, technological advances that made the ink visible, more recent advances that have made the lettering much clearer, and promising very recent advances that can map the contours of unrolled carbonized "logs" of scroll and that someday may permit non-invasive and non-destructive scanning of the text. Regarding the latter:
Not all of the villa's scrolls have been unrolled though - and because of the damage they suffer in the unwinding process that work has now been halted. Might it be possible to read them by unrolling them not physically, but virtually?

In 2009 two unopened scrolls from Herculaneum belonging to the Institut de France in Paris were placed in a Computerised Tomography (CT) scanner, normally used for medical imaging. The machine, which can distinguish different kinds of bodily tissue and produce a detailed image of a human's internal organs could potentially be used to reveal the internal surfaces of the scroll.

The task proved immensely difficult, because the scrolls were so tightly wound, and creased.

"We were able to unwrap a number of sections from the scroll and flatten them into 2D images - and on those sections you can clearly see the structure of the papyrus: fibers, sand," says Dr Brent Seales, a computer science professor at the University of Kentucky, who led the effort.

But the machine could not distinguish "the chemistry of the ink from the chemistry of the paper," he says. It is unfortunate that ancient ink contains no metal.

Seales is continuing to analyse the data produced by the 2009 scan. He has also begun testing a new way of reading the scrolls, using a beam from a particle accelerator.
There is also good reason to believe that some of the library, perhaps most of it, remains buried and waiting to be recovered.

Some lost works of the minor philosopher Philodemus have been recovered so far (it may have been his "working library") as well as part of a lost composition by the philosopher Epicurus, but there may be a whole Rule of Four-magnitude library of ancient Classical works still buried there.

I suppose it's too much to hope for some Enochic books in Greek as well, but it perhaps seems just possible that a Septuagint manuscript or two might be included.

Past posts on Herculaneum and its scrolls and other relevant things are collected here.

DSD 20.3

A NEW ISSUE OF DEAD SEA DISCOVERIES (20.3) has been published. This is a special issue on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hebrew Bible edited by Mladen Popović and Reinhard Kratz. TOC:
Editorial Note

Authors: Reinhard Kratz ; Mladen Popović
pp.: 347–348 (2)

The Hebrew Bible and/as Second Temple Literature: Methodological Reflections

Author: Andrew Teeter
pp.: 349–377 (29)
The Redaction History of the Sinai Pericope (Exod 19–24) and its Continuation in 4Q158

Author: Christoph Berner
pp.: 378–409 (32)
Torah for “The Age of Wickedness”: The Authority of the Damascus and Serekh Texts in Light of Biblical and Rewritten Traditions*

Author: Molly M. Zahn
pp.: 410–432 (23)
Jeremiah between Destruction and Exile: From Biblical to Post-Biblical Traditions

Author: Ronnie Goldstein
pp.: 433–451 (19)
From the Book of Jeremiah to the Qumranic Apocryphon of Jeremiah

Author: Devorah Dimant
pp.: 452–471 (20)
Attitudes to Gentiles in the Minor Prophets and in Corresponding Pesharim*

Authors: Anselm C. Hagedorn ; Shani Tzoref
Requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Abraham and the Torah

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Which Came First: Abraham and the Patriarchs or Moses and the Torah?A Talmudic problem: Abraham lived before the law was given, so how can his actions be used to interpret the law? Excerpt:
This dual founding creates a number of ambiguities in Judaism, one of which came to the fore in this week’s Daf Yomi reading. To the rabbis of the Talmud, the service of God was defined as the study of Torah. As we have seen much earlier in the Daf Yomi cycle, they imagined even a warrior-king like David as a Torah scholar at heart, and they described his feats of military conquest as feats of learning. Naturally, the rabbis want to think about Abraham, the first Jew, in the same way. But Abraham, by any reckoning, lived many generations before Moses received the Torah. What, then, could Abraham have studied, and how did he know how to live?
The book of Jubilees also deal with this problem for the pre-Mosaic patriarchs and invokes the "heavenly tablets" as part of the solution (e.g., 6:17-18).

Beal (ed.), Illuminating Moses

Illuminating Moses
A History of Reception from Exodus to the Renaissance

Edited by Jane Beal, Colorado Christian University

In Illuminating Moses: A History of Reception, readers discover the roles of Moses from the Exodus to the Renaissance--law-giver, prophet, writer--and their impact on Jewish and Christian cultures as seen in the Hebrew Bible, Patristic writings, Catholic liturgy, Jewish philosophy and midrashim, Anglo-Saxon literature, Scholastics and Thomas Aquinas, Middle English literature, and the Renaissance.

Contributors are Jane Beal, Robert D. Miller II, Tawny Holm, Christopher A. Hall, Luciana Cuppo-Csaki, Haim Kreisel, Rachel S. Mikva, Devorah Schoenfeld, Gernot Wieland, Deborah Goodwin, Franklin T. Harkins, Gail Ivy Berlin, and Brett Foster.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

More Masada revisionism

HAARETZ: No more heroes? Digging deeper into the Masada myth. 50 years after the first archaeological digs, mystery remains: Did any battle happen there at all? (Moshe Gilad). Excerpts:
According to Josephus, 967 people who fled the Romans to Masada committed suicide, choosing to die rather than be taken captive.

There are differences of opinion, however, about exactly what happened on the site overlooking the Dead Sea, and the controversy about what took place some 2,000 years ago still prompts heated debate among academics. Participants at a recent conference held in Jerusalem, Ein Gedi and at Masada itself, to mark the 50th anniversary of the excavations, spoke with movingly about their experiences at the time, which however shed little light on persisting mysteries.
Regarding the question of whether "any battle happened there at all" in the headline, the article says:
There are currently two researchers at the center of the archaeological controversy over Masada – Haim Goldfus and Benny Arubas, who have argued for years that the Masada story has been distorted. Many people, Goldfus maintains, “choose not to look reality in the eye.”

The Masada story as told by Josephus didn’t really happen that way, Goldfus insists, claiming that Josephus himself was in Rome when Masada fell.

“In reality, a different [series of] events took place at Masada, and apparently there was no war there at all,” says Goldfus. “There is no evidence at all at the site of blood being spilled in battle. The famous battery [at a site commonly referred to as the Roman ramp] couldn’t have fulfilled the role attributed to it in breaking through the wall, because it was too narrow and small and couldn’t have been used by the Roman army to position a battering ram. In light of the finds in the area where the [Romans] broke through, we understood that nothing happened there. There are no arrowheads, as one finds at other sites. There is no evidence of fires. The indications are that the battery structure was mostly naturally occurring.

“In addition,” he continues, “there are no mounds from walls that had been destroyed, or other evidence of a battle.”

Goldfus says he has no interest in either dispelling the Masada myth or confirming it. “I am also not claiming that [the Jews at the site] didn’t commit suicide. Maybe it did happen. Perhaps the Romans entered the site in a commando raid, but for 50 years they have been portraying a false picture of a heroic battle that didn’t take place. In reality, other things happened there, and I don’t know what they were.”
There's lots more, so read it all before it goes behind the pay wall.

Earlier posts dealing with post-Yadin revisionist interpretations of Masada etc. are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Monday, December 16, 2013

More on the Sa’adah tombstone

ARAMAIC WATCH: The story of the Sa’adah tombstone is covered in the NYT: Chasing 5th-Century Clues From a Woman’s Tombstone (James Barron). Excerpt:
Dr. Fine recalled their conversation. “He said, ‘This is a Talmudic object, it should be at Yeshiva.’ I said, ‘O.K.’ He said, ‘Do you have any money?’ I said no” — a similar tombstone offered for sale was listed for $2,500 to $3,000 in Israel, Dr. Fine said. “He said, ‘Do you have anything to trade?’ I said no. He said, ‘Why don’t you come out and give a lecture and take it home?’ I did everything I could to convince him that he shouldn’t give it to us. He kept saying, ‘No, no, this is something that should be with you.’ So I went there.”
Another interesting point that had not registered with me before is that the inscription is "sandstone with paint on it." I don't know how common painted tombstones in Jordan from the fifth century are, but this brought to mind the Gabriel Revelation, which is also an inscription, possibly from Jordan, composed with ink on stone, although it is composed in Hebrew rather than Aramaic and (if genuine) it is several centuries older. My impression is that ink-on-stone is quite unusual, so I would interested in knowing more about these late antique tombstones.

And it perhaps does bear repeating that both inscription are unprovenanced.

Background on the Sa’adah tombstone, with photographs, is here.

Minimalism draft-summary

In an article series I am writing, a subset of three articles completed last Nov. 26th might be of interest to some members of PaleoJudaica. These three introduce and attempt a representative sample of methodological developments for writing ancient Israel’s history in the era of biblical minimalism, beginning with 1992 publications.

These article are a “first pass” over the literature in an effort that I hope eventually to develop into an summary overview. Such an overview should define areas of agreement, usually qualified agreement, and the parameters within which the various positions fall. The twenty-four scholars whose works are sampled and summarized come from outside the minimalist camp. Their methodologies permit or promote a positive view of historicity in the Hebrew Bible. I do not necessarily agree with any given scholar whose work I summarize or cite.

Scholars, librarians—and those who, like me, may wish to function as both—occasionally write bibliographic essays and review articles which seek to track directions of movement within a field. I hope that scholars who hold a variety of positions regarding the controversy might profit from the bibliographic essay that is found in this article series.

The Author’s Accepted Manuscripts of all three appear on an open-access web site. Each open-access article has a link to the publisher’s Official Version of Record:

Strengthening Biblical Historicity vis-à-vis Minimalism, 1992-2008, Part 1: Introducing a Bibliographic Essay in Five Parts (November 2010)

Strengthening Biblical Historicity vis-à-vis Minimalism, 1992-2008 and Beyond, Part 2.1: The Literature of Perspective, Critique, and Methodology, First Half (November 2012)

Strengthening Biblical Historicity vis-à-vis Minimalism, 1992-2008 and Beyond, Part 2.2: The Literature of Perspective, Critique, and Methodology, Second Half (November 2013)
Earlier PaleoJudaica mentions of Professor Mykytiuk are here, here, and links.

Modern Syriac colophons

LIV INGEBORG LIED: Colophons delight! There are modern Syriac colophons? Who knew?

Secret Mark

LOREN ROSSEN III: Secret Mark Still Fools People.

UPDATE (17 December): Tony Burke responds at Apocryphicity and offers some corrections: Loren Rosson III: “Secret Mark Still Fools People.”

Sunday, December 15, 2013

McGrath on Vinklat on Mandaean (Mandean)

ARAMAIC WATCH: Unpublished Mandaean Texts (James McGrath, leading to work by Marek Vinklat).

Wold on 4QInstruction

BENJAMIN WOLD (NEH FELLOW): The Mystery of Existence: The Construction of Authority in 4QInstruction (ASOR Blog). Excerpt:
Studies on 4QInstruction have often been shackled by perceptions of particular genres, and yet even after it has been recognized that our categories are in conflict, there has been little done to break away entirely from an approach that is tethered to this beginning point. The book that I am bringing to completion at the end of my time at the Albright Institute is an investigation of 4QInstruction that considers the individual who moved among these genres. My questions relate to how authority is constructed in the document. At stake in the way that we understand the boundaries between “wisdom” and “apocalyptic” are our assessments of ancient Jewish thought and practice and the origins of Christianity.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Remembering Alan Segal

JARED CALAWAY: Reminiscing on Alan Segal.

Some past posts on Alan Segal are here, here, and links.

The Talmud on counting Jews

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: What the Talmud Would Say About the Pew Survey of American Jews: Stop Counting. An ancient principle of Judaism, debated at length in the Oral Law, is that it is a sin to count Jews—or is it?.
It doesn’t take any particular news event to make Jews start worrying about the future of Judaism. But this fall, the release of the Pew survey “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” with its findings about high rates of assimilation and intermarriage, added some fuel to the fire. As community leaders debated what to do about the problem—if it is, in fact, a problem—one suggestion was conspicuous by its absence: No one proposed that we simply stop doing censuses of Jews.

Yet this would be the most Jewish solution of all, since an ancient principle of Judaism is that it is a sin to count Jews. God says as much in Exodus 30, when he instructs Moses that if he counts the Israelites directly, a plague will fall on them. Instead, the census is to be taken indirectly: Each adult over the age of 20 is to contribute a half-shekel coin, and then the coins are to be counted. This precaution is ignored by King David, in II Samuel 24, when he impetuously conducts a census of his kingdom; and as promised, he is punished by God with three days of pestilence.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wevers's LXX-notes volumes - free!

WORDS ON THE WORD: John William Wevers LXX Text Histories… free .pdf downloads. For you, special deal!

These five volumes are invaluable resources for working with the Greek text of the Pentateuch.

(HT James McGrath and Daniel O. McClellan on Facebook.)

Fixed-term post in Rabbinic/Medieval Jewish Studies

Via Vadim Putzu vadim.putzu@fandm.edu:

Rabbinic/Medieval Judaic Studies: The Judaic Studies Program at Franklin & Marshall College invites applications for a Visiting Assistant Professor, beginning Fall 2014, pending final administrative approval. The position is in premodern Judaism with possible subfields in rabbinics, medieval philosophy, or Kabbalah. It is renewable for up to three years on evidence of good teaching and administrative approval. Appointment will be at the instructor or assistant professor level depending on qualifications; teaching experience highly desirable.

The successful candidate will teach introductory courses in Hebrew Bible and Classical Jewish Texts as well as upper-level courses in his/her specialty; the teaching load is 3/2. Candidates should submit the following materials as PDF files (searchable preferred) to Tami.Lantz@fandm.edu: letter of application, curriculum vitae, graduate transcript, three letters of recommendation, and teaching evaluations.

Hard copies are also acceptable, and may be sent to Professor Maria Mitchell Chair, Judaic Studies Program, Franklin & Marshall College, Box 3003, Lancaster PA 17604-3003. The deadline for receipt is February 14, 2014. Franklin & Marshall College is a highly selective liberal arts college with a demonstrated commitment to cultural pluralism. EOE
UPDATE: Please refer to the revised information on this position, now posted here.

Fredriksen on Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism

MARGINALIA: Paula Fredriksen on David Nirenberg’s Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition. Conclusion:
Do any of these infelicities matter? Yes and no. Yes, they matter if you want a historical description of these ancient texts and their authors in context. No, they don’t if you want to know the particular ingredients of the West’s tradition of anti-Judaism. That latter project is the heart of this haunting book. Read it. You will find yourself, again and again, wishing that you could reach your hand back in time, catch these toxic themes at their launch, and prevent all the deaths that you know will surely follow.
An earlier review and an essay by Nirenberg are noted here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

St Andrews Symposium

REMINDER: St Andrews Symposium for Biblical and Early Christian Studies: Ancient Readers & Their Scriptures: The Texts, Reading Strategies, and the Versions of the Hebrew Bible in Second Temple and Early Judaism. The call for papers is now open, with a deadline of 1 February 2014. Follow the link for more information.

Noted earlier as well here. You can find information on some past symposia here, here, here, and here.

Bible Secrets Revealed: Cargill Q & A

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Bible Secrets Revealed, Episode 1: “Lost in Translation.” Robert Cargill responds to viewers’ questions on the History Channel series (Robin Ngo).

Background here, here, and here.

Finance in Religious Law: A Comparative Conference

TODAY AND TOMORROW AT THE HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Finance in Religious Law: A Comparative Conference - Judaism, Christianity, Islam. (The post is at the Talmud Blog, but thanks also to Menachem Butler for alerting me to the event.)

Ben Sira website

From Gary Rendsburg grends@rci.rutgers.edu comes this notice:


We are pleased to announce the launch of the new website, www.bensira.org. The diverse ancient (Qumran, Masada) and medieval (Cairo Genizah) manuscripts of the book of Ben Sira are currently housed in libraries and institutions (and in one instance a private collection) in Cambridge, Oxford, London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, and Jerusalem. This website brings together for the first time the entirety of the manuscript tradition (even if the Bodleian Library folios of MS B are not available at our website at this time), in a convenient user-friendly format.

At this point we have launched only the first stage of the website, with high-resolution digital images of the documents. Future updates will include transcriptions, translations, and resources.

The developers of the website gratefully acknowledge the assistance and cooperation of the custodians of the various Ben Sira documents, all of whom are acknowledged at the Introduction page of the website.

Gary A. Rendsburg and Jacob Binstein
Department of Jewish Studies
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., U.S.A.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Brannan on MOTP1, plus electronic edition!

RICK BRANNAN: Received: Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures by Bauckham/Davila/Panayotov. His review is coming in due course. Meanwhile, he is posting a tweet (#MoreOTP) on each chapter as he reads it. By the way, I have posted a TC of volume one here.

Rick also notes on Facebook that an electronic edition of the volume is available with Logos Bible Software, which is (good) news to me.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day


More here and here and links.

Also, lots more on time travel here, here, here, here, and links.

UPDATE: James McGrath comments, apparently yesterday.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Friday, December 06, 2013

More on the Temple in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Miraculous Architecture of the First Temple Leads to Religious Sectarianism in the Second. To the Talmudic rabbis, a miracle is more plausible than the notion that their sources were incorrect. Excerpt:
Imagine that you wanted to build an exact duplicate of your house, and you hired an architect to do the job. But the architect isn’t allowed to see the building she was supposed to duplicate, and you aren’t allowed to make any blueprints or drawings of it: All you can do is describe its dimensions in words. Something like this is the challenge facing the rabbis when they try to imagine the Holy Temple, which stood in Jerusalem for centuries before the Romans destroyed it in 70 C.E. The Amoraim had never seen the structure they were trying to describe. All they had were conflicting reports from a variety of rabbinic sources, which had to be reconciled with each other and with the biblical description of the Temple. It’s no wonder, then, that the accounts of the Temple in Tractate Yoma, which Daf Yomi readers have been exploring this week, are so inconsistent and hard to follow.

Previous Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

UPDATE (8 December): Bad link now fixed. Sorry!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Mingana Collection

SYRIAC WATCH: The University of Birmingham's Mingana Collection website includes some interesting Syriac manuscripts, as well as manuscripts in Arabic and Greek.

(HT Emmanouela Grypeou on Facebook.) More on the Mingana collection here and link.

Oxford, Vatican manuscript project now live

DIGITIZATION: Vatican and Bodleian libraries launch online archive of ancient religious texts. Website funding from Polonsky Foundation includes Bodleian's 1455 Gutenberg Bible and aims to put 1.5m pages online (Maev Kennedy, The Guardian). Excerpt:
The works to be digitised include the small but staggering collection of Greek manuscripts in the Vatican, including ancient texts of works by Homer, Sophocles, Plato and Hippocrates. The Bodleian's collection is much larger – by the end of the 17th century the most important in Britain – but later, mainly of 15th and 16th century manuscripts.

The Vatican's Hebrew texts include the oldest Hebrew codex – a manuscript bound as a book – in existence, and a copy of the entire Bible written in Italy around 1100. The Vatican's collection of 8,900 incunabula – the earliest printed books, many published in Rome – is the fourth largest in the world, followed closely by the Bodleian's.
The project website is here. Note also its Hebrew Manuscripts page, the essay thereon by renowned Hebrew codicologist Malachi Beit-Arié, and the essay by Nigel Wilson on the Greek manuscripts.

Background here, with lots of links about other digitization projects.

Temple Mount graphic

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The most contested real estate on Earth?

Yeah, pretty much.

In the Washington Post Richard Johnson, Gene Thorp, and Bonnie Berkowitz have an interesting and useful graphic about the history of the site.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Deutsch is suing the IAA

THE ISRAEL FORGERY TRIAL BLOWBACK CONTINUES: Deutsch Files $3 Million Suit Against Israel Antiquities Authority (Matthew Kalman, Bible and Interpretation). Excerpt:
[Robert] Deutsch filed suit on 28 November in the Tel Aviv District Court against the Israel Antiquities Authority, its director Shuka Dorfman, the head of its anti-theft unit Amir Ganor, the Jerusalem District Attorney and Assistant District Attorney Dan Bahat who led the prosecution. He is seeking 12 million shekels ($3.4 million) in damages – an astronomical sum for Israel. In an interview, Deutsch said the multi-million-dollar damages demanded were “a drop in the ocean” compared to the wreckage wrought to his reputation and business by the affair. Deutsch was never accused of any involvement with the alleged forgery of either the James Ossuary or Jehoash Tablet, but when those items propelled the sprawling, 18-count indictment sheet into the headlines, as the main co-defendant his name was yoked to the allegations against Golan.

In the verdict delivered in March 2012 and upheld by Israel’s High Court earlier this year, Golan was also acquitted on all counts of forgery while charges against two other defendants were dropped halfway through the trial. Golan and a fifth defendant were convicted on three minor charges of mishandling genuine antiquities. In his verdict, the trial judge, Aharon Farkash, described Deutsch as “an honest and decent businessman, professional and experienced, who has advised many people without demanding any financial return.”
Background on the Israel forgery trial and its aftermath is here with many links.

Iraqi Jewish Archive - new developments


The discoverer of the Iraqi Jewish archive weighs in: Scholar fights to keep Jewish artifacts from returning to Iraq. Harold Rhode's elation at finding the trove during the Iraq war has since turned to outrage that the salvaged texts might go back. (David S. Cloud, L.A. Times).
WASHINGTON — Harold Rhode still recalls the euphoria he felt a decade ago after finding thousands of dripping, moldy artifacts of Iraq's once-vibrant Jewish community in the flooded basement of Saddam Hussein's intelligence service headquarters in Baghdad.

"How do you describe it? An enormous elation, a deep connection, but also shock: Why would this be here?" says the 64-year-old former Pentagon official, an Orthodox Jew who discovered the purloined archive in the bombed-out building days after he arrived in the Iraqi capital with the U.S. invasion force in the spring of 2003.

People who saw him at the time recall that Rhode, a disheveled, rotund scholar of Islamic history, was nearly overcome with emotion as he rescued the waterlogged books, personal papers and sacred texts, including a 400-year-old Hebrew Bible, all of which seemed to be a link to the ancient — and mostly dispersed — Jewish population of Mesopotamia.

But like the arc of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, Rhode's involvement with the Iraqi Jewish archives has progressed from exhilaration to disillusionment and recrimination.

Since he arranged 10 years ago for the collection to be brought to the United States in metal shipping containers, on which he had scrawled "RHODE" and "TORAHS" in big letters, the books and documents have been carefully cleaned of mold and grime, preserved and digitally photographed by experts at the U.S. National Archives.

When summer comes, however, they are to be returned to the Iraqi government, an ending that Rhode likens to giving the personal effects of Jews killed in the Holocaust back to Germany.

At a hearing last month before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, lawmakers grilled Brett H. McGurk, deputy assistant secretary of State.

He affirmed that the U.S. was committed to the "safe and rightful return of these artifacts" but also acknowledged that "we have heard loudly and clearly the concerns" of the Jewish community. "We'll see what we can do."
I hope they do.

I mentioned Harold Rhode in connection with the archive here back in 2004.

Jews expelled from Iraq are also having their say: Tug-of-war erupts over planned return of Jewish archives to Iraq (Sylvia Westall and Jonathan Saul, Reuters). Excerpt:
Edwin Shuker, 58, who escaped to Britain with his family from Baghdad in 1971, said he had discovered his long-abandoned school certificate on display as part of the National Archives exhibition.

"This is more than a school certificate - it is the identity we were forced to leave behind," he told Reuters, likening the document's journey and survival to his own.

"I would like to be reassured that my children and future generations will have unrestricted access to this collection."

Cynthia Kaplan Shamash, from the New York-based World Organisation of Jews from Iraq, said Iraqi Jews were grateful for the restoration but did not want the archive to go back. "Returning the collection to a Jewish-free Iraq in the current conditions is incomprehensible and unacceptable," she said.
Likewise in this article in the National Post: ‘Like sending back art Nazis looted’: Iraqi Jews who fled persecution fight to stop U.S. from returning stolen artifacts to Baghdad (Joe O'Connor). Excerpt:
Finding her old report card in an archive that houses the Declaration of Independence was “kind of cool” for Dr. Bassoon-Zaltzman. But mostly it wasn’t cool. Mostly it made her angry, and sad, and brought back a tide of bad memories from her childhood, from the Iraq of the 1960s where a once vital Iraqi Jewish community lived in fear, never knowing who would be arrested next.

“I really felt violated seeing my report card because I knew the Iraqi secret police had no way of getting it unless they took it from our house,” Dr. Bassoon-Zaltzman says. “All I could think about was somebody being in the house I grew up in and stealing this document and storing it in the basement of the Mukhabarat — the secret police of Saddam Hussein.

“Sending these items back to Iraq now would be like sending art that the Nazis looted from Europe’s Jews back to Germany. But it’s even worse, because I am nobody. I am not famous, and I am still alive, and there is no inherent value to these items. Nobody in Iraq is going to care about looking at documents and photos of Iraqi Jews that they don’t even know and that have no value to them, or the Iraqi government, or anyone — except the people they were stolen from.

“It is my report card.”
Background here with endless links

Hannibal miniseries

PUNIC WATCH: History Developing Hannibal Miniseries Executive Produced by Halle Berry (comingsoon.net).
History is developing the miniseries "Hannibal" (working title), co-produced by A+E Studios and Red Arrow Entertainment with Academy Award-winning Actress Halle Berry executive producing and Oscar-nominated writer Jeffrey Caine (The Constant Gardener, GoldenEye) penning the script, it was announced today by Dirk Hoogstra, Executive Vice President and General Manager, History & H2. The miniseries will tell the story of the greatest generals in antiquity - Hannibal Barca and his archrival Scipio Africanus - who went head-to-head in the Second Punic War.

This is evidently unrelated to Vin Diesel's longstanding project of a Hannibal movie. I have many other past posts on Hannibal, e.g., here, here, here, here, and here.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Review of Lim, The Formation of the Jewish Canon

MARGINALIA: Edmon L. Gallagher on Timothy H. Lim’s The Formation of the Jewish Canon. Excerpt:
Timothy Lim’s new book The Formation of the Jewish Canon does not seek to provide a comprehensive treatment of canon formation but rather attempts to address select questions with some depth. He thus gives little attention to what we can learn of the Jewish Bible from patristic sources, which scholars such as Gilles Dorival have shown to be valuable for this task. Nevertheless, each of the debatable points listed above receives treatment here. Lim concentrates on the pre-rabbinic sources that illuminate (however faintly) the process by which the main contours of the Jewish canon were established during the period from Ezra in the fifth century BCE to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.
The book was noted earlier as forthcoming here.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Dead Sea Scrolls and Pauline Literature, Christianity in the Lycus Valley

The Dead Sea Scrolls and Pauline Literature

Edited by Jean-Sébastien Rey , Université de Lorraine
The relationships between Pauline literature and the Dead Sea scrolls have fascinated specialists ever since the latter were first discovered. Now that all the Qumran scrolls have been published, it is possible to see more clearly the amplitude and impact of this corpus on first century Judaism. This book offers some syntheses of the results obtained in the last decades, and also opens up new perspectives, by highlighting similarities and indicating possible relationships between these various writings within Mediterranean Judaism. In addition, the authors wish to show how certain traditions spread, evolve and are reconfigured in ancient Judaism as they meet new religious, cultural and social challenges.

Early Christianity in the Lycus Valley

In Early Christianity in the Lycus Valley, Ulrich Huttner explores the way Christians established communities and defined their position within their surroundings from the first to the fifth centuries. He shows that since the time of Paul the apostle, the cities Colossae, Hierapolis and Laodicea allowed Christians to expand and develop in their own way.

Huttner uses a wide variety of sources, not only Christian texts - from Pauline letters to Byzantine hagiographies - but also inscriptions and archeological remains, to reconstruct the religious conflicts as well as cooperation between Christians, Jews and Pagans. The book reveals the importance of local conditions in the development of Early Christianity.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Fish or dish on the Talpiot Tomb B inscription?

MARK GOODACRE (Wim G. Meijer): If it walks like a duck: Ossuary 6 of the Talpiot 'Patio' Tomb depicts commonly used Jewish images.

Numerous earlier posts on the Talpiot Tomb B inscription are here and links.

4 Ezra and 2 Baruch, Wisdom and Torah

Fourth Ezra and Second Baruch
Reconstruction after the Fall

Edited by Matthias Henze, Rice University and Gabriele Boccaccini, University of Michigan with the collaboration of Jason M. Zurawski

The two Jewish works that are the subject of this volume, 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch, were written around the turn of the first century CE in the aftermath of the Roman destruction of the Second Temple. Both texts are apocalypses, and both occupy an important place in early Jewish literature and thought: they were composed right after the Second Temple period, as Rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity began to emerge.

The twenty essays in this volume were first presented and discussed at the Sixth Enoch Seminar at the Villa Cagnola at Gazzada, near Milan, Italy, on June 26-30, 2011. Together they reflect the lively debate about 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch among the most distinguished specialists in the field.

The Contributors are: Gabriele Boccaccini; Daniel Boyarin; John J. Collins; Devorah Dimant; Lutz Doering; Lorenzo DiTommaso; Steven Fraade; Lester L. Grabbe; Matthias Henze; Karina M. Hoogan; Liv Ingeborg Lied; Hindy Najman; George W.E. Nickelsburg; Eugen Pentiuc; Pierluigi Piovanelli; Benjamin Reynolds; Loren Stuckenbruck; Balázs Tamási; Alexander Toepel; Adela Yarbro Collins
More on the Sixth Enoch Seminar here, here, and here.
Wisdom and Torah
The Reception of ‘Torah’ in the Wisdom Literature of the Second Temple Period

Edited by Bernd U. Schipper, Humboldt University and D. Andrew Teeter, Harvard Divinity School

A proper assessment of the manifold relationships that obtain between “wisdom” and “Torah” in the Second Temple Period has fascinated generations of interpreters. The essays of the present collection seek to understand this key relationship by focusing attention on specific instances of the reception of “Torah” in Wisdom literature and the shaping of Torah by wisdom. Taking the concepts of wisdom and torah in the various literary strata of the book of Deuteronomy as a point of departure, the remainder of the book examines the relationship between wisdom and Torah in Wisdom literature of the Second Temple period, including Proverbs, Qohelet, Ps 19 and 119, Baruch, Ben Sira, Wisdom, sapiential and rewritten scriptural texts from Qumran, and the Wisdom of Solomon.

Friday, November 29, 2013

1 Enoch and the canon


Jack Collins: "Scholars have suggested a number of factors that led to Enoch's rejection from most Christian biblical canons ..."

Mezuzot and persecution in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Talmud Says God Can’t Protect Jews From Persecution; They Must Take Precautions. A ‘mezuzah,’ like Judaism, is designed for life in this world, not for a messianic future, or for martyrdom.
This week’s Daf Yomi reading gave striking examples of such Talmudic difficulties. Say, for instance, that you wanted to know whether a certain building or doorway required a mezuzah. We know that the door of every residence is supposed to have one. But what about a public building, like a synagogue? What about a building that gets filthy, like a barn or a bathhouse, or a temporary structure, like a sukkah? What if two people own a house in partnership—do they both have to put up a mezuzah? And what about unusual entryways, like a tall arch—do they qualify? These are the kinds of minutely detailed questions you would expect the Talmud to ask, since it is always concerned with anticipating the full range of possible questions, no matter how unlikely. What you would not expect is that the answers to those mezuzah-related questions would be found in Tractate Yoma, which is supposed to be about Yom Kippur.
Previous Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

SBL 2013 highlights

EXCELLENT SBL MEETING IN BALTIMORE. I went to some good papers, did some good networking, and was very happy with the review session on the new Pseudepigrapha book. This was the first year I have ever had two new books in the Book Display auditorium. (Click on all the images below for a larger version.)

My translation of the Hekhalot literature is to be reviewed at the 2014 SBL in San Diego in the Esotericism and Mysticism in Antiquity Section.

L to R: Jim Davila, Judith Newman, John J. Collins. Photo courtesy of Sarah Whittle.

As I said, I was pleased with this year's review of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, Volume One (photo above). There were people coming and going throughout the session and at peak attendance I counted about 60 in the room. I recall that there was an SBL review session on Charlesworth's two Old Testament Pseudepigrapha volumes back in 1986 or 1987. It took place around a single large table in a room and my recollection is that there weren't more than about 20 people present, which perhaps reflects something of the expansion of interest in the field since the mid-80s.

One of the reviewers, Liv Ingeborg Lied, has posted her review on her blog: Text – work – manuscript: what is “an Old Testament Pseudepigraphon”? In return, I am posting my response to her review below, along with the opening and closing paragraphs of my whole response.
First, let me thank all of the reviewers for their kind remarks about our new volume. It is gratifying indeed both to hear their praise and to receive criticisms that reflect such attentive reading and careful engagement with the volume. Their remarks will help us continue to develop our thinking about the second volume and today's discussion marks the beginning of what I trust will be a long and fruitful conversation generated by this new material. My remarks that follow should be heard with all this in mind. I would also like to thank my co-editors, Richard Bauckham and Alexander Panayotov, who read the first three of the reviews and shared their thoughts with me, some of which I have included here. ...

Liv Ingeborg Lied Liv raises some legitimate methodological concerns over the fact that we treat a large number of alleged quotations of now otherwise lost works ("conceived compositional units") as representative of actual lost works and that sometimes we even infer the existence of lost works from passages in the work of a later author which imply or hint at the use of an earlier source. This would be her third category, "entries that represent as works texts-on-page that are conceptualized in a rather different way in the manuscripts themselves." She asks specifically about the text fragment attributed to a Book of Noah, but implicitly about a number of other texts translated in the volume, "[I]s the textual entity described here a work at all, and if it is; what work are we talking about and to whom is this a work?"

The editors were of the view, as we said in the introduction, that the quotation fragments included in this volume and the forthcoming one could at least be argued to come out of earlier, otherwise lost "works" and that it was worthwhile to present the case for each so scholars could evaluate it. I imagine some will stand the test of time and scrutiny and others won't. The format chosen for presentation has ample precedent in earlier collections. All that said, there is always room for methodological reflection and refinement of what we are doing. And what we do with quotation fragments is, as Liv observes, complicated.

But much of the complication consists of factors that scholars specializing in ancient texts have learned to take for granted. Like the Book of Noah fragment (if that is what it is), most of our manuscripts of ancient or early medieval works are medieval and we must try to reconstruct the ancient work as best we can, often on the basis of maddeningly corrupt manuscripts. The complications of interest here are with the additional inference that a passage in the Book of Asaph (as best we have it in a medieval manuscript) which claims to give us the Book of Noah is actually an excerpt from an ancient book with that title.

Here it is not clear to me why Liv only allows that "other sources may point" in the direction "that there was an ancient conception of a work ascribed to Noah." This very cautious formulation seems to me to be a simple matter of fact. There are references to a book of Noah, not only in Jubilees 21:10 and 10:13, but also in Aramaic Levi 57 and in the Genesis Apocryphon v 29. There was a conception of a work ascribed to Noah. Whether in fact one or more such works actually existed is uncertain (I think it likely) and whether we can reconstruct part of it is more uncertain still. But I believe that Martha Himmelfarb has made a good case for the fragment in question to be a stratigraphically earlier version of material found in Jubilees. This material is connected both there and in the Book of Asaph with a book of Noah, so it may well be that that is where it came from.

Liv asks about this book, "can we really get to it, and why is it an aim to get to it?" My answer to her first question is: Quite possibly, based on the specific case that Martha has made. Why is it an aim to get to it? Because our aim is to recover every surviving scrap of writing from antiquity. Bit by bit, a letter at a time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.

I take it that Liv is not concerned so much with the question of whether any or all of the quotation fragments we have published actually come from ancient "works." A specific case has been made for each on its own terms and doubtless other specialists will find some cases more persuasive than others. Rather, she has broader methodological concerns about applying what she calls the "work-model" to these texts at all. Along these lines she asks some wide-ranging methodological questions.

First she says "We need to ask ourselves about the extent to which it is fruitful for readers of MOTP to get acquainted with this material in the work-format, or whether this format hides too much information, or even creates a map of second temple Judaism and late antiquity that may not fit the territory." My main response to this is that we chose this format as the best and clearest way forward to present the material to both a specialist and a nonspecialist audience. Our concerns were practical and not just methodological.

Second she asks, "[H]ow do we value the information contained in the source material when 'the ancient books' are what we aim for?" There are many different possible answers to this question. Her approach using New Philology values the manuscripts and texts in ways rather different from the ways we valued them, but both approaches have a significant contribution to make.

She asks finally, "Does the Pseudepigraphon have to be a book, identifiable as a 'work,' in order to be something in its own right at all?" My answer: I don't know. I doubt it.

Liv's three questions are phrased in a way that seems to imply she has answers in mind, so I am happy to turn them back to her and ask her for her own answers. And, again in practical terms, if she thinks there is a better way for us to handle these quotation fragments in accordance with our own objective of getting them published in a form readily useful to specialists and nonspecialists, I invite her to tell us about it. ...

In conclusions, once again, I want to convey the gratitude of the editors to this review panel for their warm welcome of the new volume, their praise, and their thoughtful critical comments.
UPDATE (29 November): Jack Collins was at the session and comments here. Since Jack brings up the dissatisfaction with the term "pseudepigrapha" in the discussion (especially in relation to the title of our book), here are some comments I made about the issue:
Regarding the question of terminology, I would like to sound a note of caution. The current discussion reminds me of the similar discussion of the term "magic" in the 1990s, in which specialists in the area expressed strong and quite justified reservations about the use of the term for what they were studying. Marvin Meyer offered a replacement term, "ritual power," and Jonathan Z. Smith argued that the term "magic" should be dropped in favor of more specific terms on a lower order of taxonomy, but by the early 2000s the discussion had died down without coming to any conclusion. This conversation was quite useful for helping specialists in magic understand better what they were studying, but ultimately the unsatisfactory term "magic" carried the day and it is the term used in the various SBL sessions in which the specialists carry on with the important work of understanding the ancient magical texts.

It could happen again. I appreciate the many problems with the term "pseudepigrapha" and I don't dispute that the current discussion is helping us better to understand the texts on which we are working. At the same time, I see no sign of a groundswell of support for new terminology that can adequately replace the term "pseudepigrapha." I cannot predict the future, but I see no need to assume that the current discussion will succeed in producing such terminology, and it may well be that at a certain point we pseudepigraphers will join the magicians and just get on with studying the texts. There is a certain irony that we are being told in the Pseudepigrapha Section that "pseudepigrapha" is a term we should drop and that should not have been used in our volume. When we reach the point of consensus that the title of this unit should be changed to something else that most of us can agree on, not to mention the title of the Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, and the titles of both are in fact changed, I will be more worried about the word "pseudepigrapha" in our volumes.
I suggested the Unobtainium Section and the Journal for the Study of Unobtainium, but no one seemed to want to go with that.

Jesus and Brian

Jesus & Brian - Or: What Have the Pythons Done for Us?

Safra Lecture Theatre (Ground Floor) Strand Campus

Conference, Film Screening, Public Talk

20 (16:00) - 22/06/2014 (17:00)

Monty Python’s Life of Brian provoked a furious response in some quarters when it first appeared in 1979, even leading to cries of ‘blasphemy’. However, many students and teachers of biblical literature were quietly, and often loudly, both amused and intrigued. Life of Brian in fact contains numerous references to what was then the cutting edge of biblical scholarship and Life of Jesus research, founded on the recognition of the historical Jesus as a Jew who needs to be understood within the context of his time. Implicitly, in setting ‘Brian’ within the tumultuous social and political background of his age, Life of Brian sets Jesus within it also. It assumes the audience has some knowledge of the gospel accounts, which directly inform the comedy.

Ever since Philip Davies first wrote on the film 15 years ago, other scholars too have turned their gaze to consider exactly what Life of Brian does in regard to Jesus scholarship, and have increasingly delved into its curious corners to reflect on what it says both about the tumultuous times of Jesus and also contemporary scholarly discussions. Biblical scholarship has moved on greatly in the past 25 years, and various aspects of Life of Brian correlate with themes now intensely explored. Every Bible scholar knows what ‘blessed are the cheese-makers’ means among us!

This conference opens up Life of Brian to renewed investigation, using it in an innovative way to sharpen our view. Papers presented by some of the world’s most eminent biblical scholars and historians will discuss the film’s relevance to history, biblical studies and Life of Jesus research (see below). There will be discussion of the socio-political context and Josephus; costuming and setting; and other topics. The aim is to use the film to reflect on history, interpretation and meaning, as a tool that can help us consider our assumptions and the historical evidence: a ‘reception exegesis’ approach. There will be a book produced with selected conference papers, with a publication date of mid-2015.

It is also a celebration of a British movie masterpiece.
I am dumbfounded by what a good idea this is. Follow the link for registration information and an impressive list of speakers.

Brock bibliographical handouts

SYRIAC WATCH: Bibliographical Handouts by Dr. Sebastian Brock (Dumbarton Oaks).
This page attempts to reproduce the priceless set of bibliographical handouts prepared by Dr. Sebastian Brock over many years of teaching Syriac in the Oriental Institute at the University of Oxford. Dr. Brock's students have, for years, saved their handouts and constantly referred back to them, at times trading each other for more recently produced editions. We ourselves have treasured our sets of Dr. Brock's handouts and most of what we know about Syriac studies originates from his classes, his articles, and his famously generous and helpful conversations and advice. ...
(Via Emmanuella Grypeou on Facebook.)

UPDATE: Dead link now fixed.

Happy Thanksgiving!

BACK IN ST. ANDREWS and in my office. Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers and all others celebrating.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Hanukkah!

HAPPY HANUKKAH (CHANUKKAH) to all those celebrating. The festival begins this evening at sundown.

Some background on Hanukkah is collected here, and some more recent Hanukkah-related posts are here, here, here, and here.

Dobroruka, Second Temple Pseudepigraphy

Vicente Dobroruka, Second Temple Pseudepigraphy: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Apocalyptic Texts and Related Jewish Literature (Ekstasis)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


HEADING BACK TO ST. ANDREWS. Should be there tomorrow (Wednesday) evening. Excellent conference. More later.

Martone, Lettere di Bar Kokhba

Corrando Martone (ed.), Lettere di Bar Kokhba. Brescia 2013.
(Via What's New in Papyrology?)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Satlow - Albright report

ASOR BLOG: Jewish Popular Piety in Late Antiquity (Michael L. Satlow). A report on his stint as Seymour Gitin Distinguished Professor at the Albright Institute.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

DSS in Utah

OPENED YESTERDAY: The Leo rolls out the Dead Sea Scrolls (Jaime Winston, saltlakemagazine.com/)

Background here with many links.

Modi'in in the news

HANUKKAH | Modi’in struggles to preserve its ancient Maccabean history (judy lash balint, jns.org).
Modi’in is a town mentioned in the Mishnah as home to the Maccabees of Hanukkah fame, and where the oldest synagogue in Israel was discovered. But it is also the Jewish state’s largest planned community and bills itself as “The City of the Future.”

Reconciling those two aspects of Modi’in is at the heart of a struggle playing itself out on local, national and international levels, as archeologists and preservationists try to raise awareness of Modi’in’s rich Hanukkah-related history and preserve ancient sites, while most city and government officials are focused on developing services for today’s residents.

The specific site of ancient Modi'in remains debated among specialists, but Umm el-Umdan definitely has some important ancient architecture from the Maccabean era.

Background here and links.

Postdoc at the Hebrew University:

The Center for the Study of Christianity at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem invites applications for a postdoctoral research fellowship in one of the following areas of study:

* New Testament, Early Christianity, its literature and Jewish context

* Eastern Christianity

* Christianity in Palestine/Eretz-Israel (in all fields and throughout its entire history)

* Jewish-Christian relations

What the CSC is offering:

* The successful candidate will be awarded for one year (or 6 months), beginning on 1 September 2014, a grant **of $2000 per month

* Travel expenses

* Library privileges at the Hebrew University
The deadline for application is 1 February 2014. Follow the link for full application details etc.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fine, Art, History and the Historiography of Judaism in Roman Antiquity

Art, History and the Historiography of Judaism in Roman Antiquity

Steven Fine, Yeshiva University
Art, History, and the Historiography of Judaism in Roman Antiquity
explores the complex interplay between visual culture, texts, and their interpretations, arguing for an open-ended and self-aware approach to understanding Jewish culture from the first century CE through the rise of Islam. The essays assembled here range from the “thick description” of Josephus’s portrayal of Bezalel son of Uri as a Roman architect through the inscriptions of the Dura Europos synagogue, Jewish reflections on Caligula in color, the polychromy of the Jerusalem temple and new-old approaches to the zodiac, and to the Christian destruction of ancient synagogues. Taken together, these essays suggest a humane approach to the history of the Jews in an age of deep and long-lasting transitions—both in antiquity, and in our own time.

SBL 2013

I'M OFF TO BALTIMORE for the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.

This year I am responding to several reviews of my new book, co-edited with Richard Bauckham and Alexander Panayotov, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, Volume one (on which much background here and links). Here is the information on the session:
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
334 - Convention Center

Theme: Review session, R. Bauckham, J. Davila, A. Panayotov, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, Volume One

Judith Newman, University of Toronto, Presiding (5 min)
John Collins, Yale University, Panelist (20 min)
Liv Ingeborg Lied, Det Teologiske Menighetsfakultet, Panelist (20 min)
Robert Kraft, University of Pennsylvania, Panelist (20 min)
Hindy Najman, Yale University, Panelist (20 min)
James Davila, University of St. Andrews, Respondent (25 min)
Note that both the online and the paper Program Books have some inaccuracies in this entry. They omit Professor Najman, give the respondents in the wrong order, and assign incorrect times to each presentation. Please go by the information given above. Also, Professor Lied provides a foretaste of her review here.

If you are attending SBL this year, we hope to see you there.

As usual, I will blog as much as time permits during the conference. Also as usual, I have pre-posted something for each day I'm away, so do keep visiting PaleoJudaica over the next week.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Horn (ed.), The Bible, the Qur'an, & Their Interpretation: Syriac Perspectives

Cornelia Horn (ed.), The Bible, the Qur'an, & Their Interpretation: Syriac Perspectives (Abelian)

As Sacred Scriptures for the believer, the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur'an inspire and guide billions of faithful women and men, young and old, across the globe. One of the exceptionally fruitful contexts in which the reception, interpretation, transmission of, and engagement with these holy texts flourished was in the Syriac-speaking milieu. The articles collected in this volume illuminate the critical contribution of Syriac studies to understanding important aspects of reading Jewish, Christian, and Islamic sacred texts in historical contexts. They open the reader's imagination to the contribution of the Syriac-speaking world for the cross-fertilization of these sacred texts and their interpretation.


Women's work in ancient Israel

HAARETZ: What's changed? Nothing: In ancient Israel, women did all the work. How did the people of the ancient Levant really live? For women, it was grinding on their haunches. ( Miriam Feinberg Vamosh). The headline, for which the author is obviously not responsible, mischaracterizes the content of the article on a number of counts. The point of the article is that running a household in antiquity was vastly more work than today, and that work fell to women. Excerpt:
Grain can actually be eaten fresh, but only in early spring, when it’s still green and full of sugar. It can also be toasted, which is the way Ruth and Boaz enjoyed it on their first lunch date (Ruth 2:14: At mealtime Boaz said to her, Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar. When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain.) Turning it into bread was a lot harder. The earliest food processor in history was a grinding stone, the likes of which have been found in excavations going back many thousands of years. Scholars say that even though the baking itself took only a few minutes after plastering the raw dough on the inside walls of the oven, it probably took a woman about three hours to produce enough flour for a minimum-sized household of six.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Yom Kippur in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSH IN TABLET: The Talmud’s Yom Kippur, With Sacrifice and Blood, Is Nothing Like Jewish Ritual Today. The rabbinic tradition arose from the fact that the Bible doesn’t tell us what we need to know to lead our lives.
But the Yom Kippur we read about in the Talmud is not exactly the Yom Kippur Jews experience today. For the last 2,000 years, the Day of Atonement has been observed with prayer and fasting. But in the days when the Temple stood, the heart of Yom Kippur was an elaborate daylong ritual performed by the high priest, the Kohen Gadol. This involved animal sacrifice, confession of sins, and the sprinkling of blood in the Holy of Holies, the innermost chamber of the Temple; and most of Tractate Yoma is consumed with getting the details of this ceremony exactly right. Unlike Eruvin, then, which is intensely practical in its focus on what ordinary Jews can and can’t do on Shabbat, Yoma is highly abstract. It is about a ceremony that hasn’t been performed for 2,000 years and that even then was performed by just one man out of the whole Jewish people.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

DSS interview

RISA LEVITT KOHN, co-curator of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition currently about to open in Utah, is interviewed by Brian Staker in the Salt Lake City Weekly: The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Leonardo's exhibition brings the time of biblical writing to life.

Background here and links.

Day-Conference on Polemic in the Study of Jews and Judaism

Call for Papers - Warring Words: Rethinking Polemic in the Study of Jews and Judaism
Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference
University of Pennsylvania, Jewish Studies Program, Thursday, March 20, 2014
[organized by Marc Herman, Rachel Ellis, and Phillip Fackler]

There exists a strong scholarly consensus that polemic has played a central role in Jewish history. Whether we consider polemics involving Samaritans, Christians, Qaraites, Muslims, Haskalah thinkers, Zionists, “the nations,” or contemporary group identity formation, polemical forms of argumentation and representation have been widespread in thinking about Jews and Judaism. However, this scholarly consensus often obfuscates rather than clarifies, preventing the category of polemic from receiving careful scrutiny. The label “polemic” can render certain aspects of a text unproblematic or irrelevant, because scholars frequently view polemic as a dishonest form of argumentation that bears little or no relationship to a writer’s “real” views. To move this situation forward, scholars must begin to ask the following questions. How can scholars identify polemic and delimit its boundaries? Does the label polemic imply that a given author actually held different views? How is that view identified? Are there limits to polemic, either based on reasonableness or believability? Do consumers of polemic share the scholarly skepticism of polemic or recognize the rhetorical strategies at play? What role does relationship with a real or imagined “Other” play in constructing identity?

This one-day graduate student conference at the University of Pennsylvania will focus on these and similar questions. It will feature Dr. Elisheva Carlebach as the keynote speaker and students of different periods and disciplines in the study of Judaism and Jewish history who will bring different data to bear on these theoretical questions. This one-day event will be held on Thursday, March 20, 2014.

Proposals should be 500-800 words, and include a title, description of the specific materials studied and method, and a statement of thesis. Relevant papers might investigate specific texts, monuments, movements, people, or examples from material culture from any period of Jewish history, including contemporary research, with an eye toward the theoretical and methodological issues raised by problematizing the category of polemic. Papers may focus on any aspect of Jews and Judaism, from any perspective. We welcome submissions from graduate students both affiliated with and outside the University of Pennsylvania. Selected papers will receive small travel stipends.

Please submit proposals to warringwords2014@gmail.com by January 6, 2014.
(HT Annette Yoshiko Reed on the PSCO list.)