Friday, February 08, 2013



Whew! Almost missed it. Thanks to Rick Brannan on Facebook for the reminder.

Cairo Geniza funding crisis

Slideshow: Oxbridge coalition in bid to save collection

Written by Jennie Baker (Cambridge News)

A £1.2 million fundraising bid has been launched by Cambridge and Oxford universities to keep 1,000 years of Jewish history in the public domain.

The Lewis-Gibson Genizah Collection of more than 1,700 fragments of ancient Hebrew and Arabic manuscripts has been housed at Westminster College, a Cambridge theological college, since 1896.

But the manuscripts – dating from the 9th to the 19th century – are in danger of being sold into private collections unless the universities can gather the funds to buy them.

This is news to me. They have already raised half a million pounds, which is great, but there's lots more to go. If you, dear reader, are, or if one of your friends is, a rich philanthrophist, here's your chance!

DSS dynamic duo

OBSCURE HEADLINE OF THE WEEK: Dead Sea Scrolls anchor interfaith series. Unpacked, it tells us that Larry Schiffman and James VanderKam will be doing a joint lecture series on the Dead Sea Scrolls in New Jersey later this month.

Herod exhibition

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: King Herod’s monument, tomb or temple? Bonna Devora Haberman has some rambling reflections on the new Herod exhibition in the Israel Museum.

Background here and links.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Sarajevo Haggadah latest

THE SARAJEVO HAGGADAH is back in the news: Bosnia Refuses to Loan Sarajevo Hagaddah to NY's Met: National Museum in Sarajevo, where the Hagaddah is kept, closed its doors indefinitely due to a lack of funding. (Arutz Sheva).

Background here, here, here, here, and links.

Cuneiform top 100

NEWS YOU CAN USE: The One Hundred Most Important Cuneiform Objects.

The list includes the Hammurapi law code, the Gilgamesh Epic, the Gilgamesh Flood story, and the Cyrus Cylinder. Unaccountably, the Sumerian Flood story (or "Eridu Genesis") is missing.

(Via Francis Deblauwe on Facebook.)

The Early High Christology Club

LARRY HURTADO reminisces about The Early High Christology Club (EHCC).

I guess I'm pretty close to a charter member; I wasn't on the committee, but I attended all the Divine Mediator Figure SBL sessions (the first was in 1991) and I presented some papers in the group. Alas, I wasn't at the famous dinner. My 1998 undergraduate course Divine Mediator Figures in the Biblical World was very much inspired by the work of the group, and it led into the International Conference on the Historical Origins of the Worship of Jesus at St. Andrews, which I organized with Carey Newman. Larry Hurtado and many others from the group attended and gave papers, which were published in The Jewish Roots of Christological Monotheism.

I still have my mug. I'm drinking my morning coffee from it right now.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Cataloguing grants at HMML

ADAM MCCOLLUM: Cataloging grants. "The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) announces grants available for cataloging work in its eastern Christian collections in Arabic/Garšūnī, Armenian, Old Church Slavonic, and Syriac. ..."

Follow the link for details.


A TRAVEL PIECE ON ZIPPORI/SEPPHORIS in Haaretz: Tourist tip #157 / Zippori National Park: The ancient ruins of this once great city lives up to its post-Biblical billing, "the ornament of all Galilee".
With ancient hype billing it as “the ornament of all Galilee” (the Jewish historian Josephus), and “perched on a mountain like a bird” – i.e., a bird’s eye view (the Talmud) and “a land flowing with milk and honey for 16 miles around,” (ditto) even in ruin, the city of Zippori has a lot to live up to. And it does.
It includes a late-antique synagogue and some cool mosaics.

Earlier posts on Zippori are here, here, here, and links

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

DSS in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI MUSEUM CENTER: Dead Sea Scrolls swapped out.
By the time you read this, the Cincinnati Museum Center should have completed the mid-exhibit changeover of the 10 ancient Dead Sea Scroll artifacts on display as the centerpiece of its current exhibit.


The [new] set includes Deuteronomy, Psalms, Isaiah Commentary, Book of War, Aramaic Levi, Pseudo-Ezekiel, Apocryphal Lamentations, Papyrus Bar, Community Rule and Leviticus/Numbers.
Background here and here and links.

Timbuktu manuscripts update


From Time Magazine: Timbuktu’s Ancient Libraries: Saved by Locals, Endangered by a Government.
In fact, Timbuktu’s residents and preservationists had told TIME early last year that they had rescued tens of thousands of manuscripts before the militants seized northern Mali. They agreed to talk on the condition that TIME kept their secret until the jihadists had been defeated. The operation was conducted by Timbuktu’s old families, which have looked after the city’s 300,000 or so ancient documents for centuries. The residents left behind just a few hundred manuscripts in Timbuktu’s only publicly run collection, the Ahmed Baba Institute, in order to conceal the fact that they’d hidden the bulk of them elsewhere; it was those that were destroyed last month. “The vast majority of belligerents are illiterate, and we don’t want them to know how valuable these are,” Stephanie Diakité, an American in Bamako who runs workshops on the manuscripts, told me before the French and African forces freed Timbuktu. “We want them to think that they are just silly books.”

Now that impression is gone forever. Even those jihadists who are illiterate are likely aware of the manuscripts’ high value, given the headline news generated by their potential destruction. Timbuktu’s libraries comprise one the most detailed written accounts of Africa, from when the city was a gold- and salt-trading hub in the 15th and 16th centuries with a thriving community of scholars and several universities. When TIME visited Timbuktu in 2009 to describe the manuscripts, residents explained that each family appointed one of their children to look after the documents for the next generation — a system that has lasted through countless migrations, invasions and skirmishes over the years.

But with the manuscript pages brittle — they can crumble at the lightest touch — preserving them has become urgent. ...
From the AP: On vegetable carts, in millet sacks, people of Timbuktu conspire to save priceless manuscripts.

It appears from the latter article that most of the 2000 unaccounted-for manuscripts were locked safely in a basement room in the Ahmed Baba Institute and were not harmed, which is good news. Also, it is not clear to me whether the Institute building was burned or not. This article indicates that it was at least set on fire, but apparently it did not burn down.

Background here and links.

Top 10 archaeological finds

THE CONFIRMATION THAT RICHARD III'S SKELETON was buried in a car park has generated a new top-10 list: Top 10 archaeological finds of all time after discovery of skeleton of Richard III (

There's plenty of room for debate about a top-10 list this broad, but the choices in this list do not strike me as unreasonable.

Golem: the video game

CAN'T MAKE IT UP: Moonbot Studios of Shreveport announces plans for its next step: a video game, titled 'Golem' (The Times-Picayune).
Although most audiences probably know Moontbot from its Oscar-winning film or from Joyce's award-winning children's books, "Golem" is entirely in in keeping with the studio's expressed goal of telling stories through whatever medium works best.

"At Moonbot, we've been trying to find different ways to tell stories because that's what we love to do," Joyce said. "And games seem to be a place that had a lot of potential for narrative, and not just for fun or blowing stuff up. And we saw that, as storytelling evolves -- and it is, the way we get stories, the way we see stories -- that gaming is maybe one of the most exciting places to tell a story."

This particular story -- with its ancient origins -- was so appealing because, among other reasons, it holds great potential for both great action and great emotion, Joyce said. "(It is based on) the ancient folktale of the Golem, the invincible man of clay made in Prague to save Prague from the invading hordes," he said. "There's all kinds of different versions of what the Golem did. And they treat this story as truth. ... It has an ancient pedigree in storytelling. It sort of the first monster movie. "
Background here with many links.

Forthcoming: Macaskill, The Slavonic Texts of 2 Enoch

SPEAKING OF SLAVONIC, this very important critical edition of the Slavonic text of 2 Enoch by my colleague Dr. Grant Macaskill is forthcoming with Brill in June: The Slavonic Texts of 2 Enoch.

UPDATE: Meant to add some links. More on 2 Enoch here, here, and links.

Slavonic alphabet anniversary

CYRIL AND METHODIUS DAY UPDATE: The Cyril and Methodius Readings have begun at the Russian Scientific and Cultural Center in Rome as part of the celebration of the 1150th anniversary of the creation of the first Slavonic alphabet by Saints Cyril and Methodius (Voice of Russia, TASS)

Background here and links.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Timbuktu manuscripts update

INFORMATION ON THE FATE OF THE TIMBUKTU MANUSCRIPTS continued to develop over the weekend, but I was knocked down by a bad head cold and wasn't following the media. Lydia Polgreen at the New York Times has the latest: As Extremists Invaded, Timbuktu Hid Artifacts of a Golden Age.
The residents of Timbuktu suffered grievously under Islamic militant rule. Almost all of life’s pleasures, even the seemingly innocent ones like listening to music and dancing, were forbidden. With the arrival of French and Malian troops here on Jan. 28, life is slowly returning to normal.

But the city’s rich historical patrimony suffered terrible losses. Timbuktu is known as the City of 333 Saints, a reference to the Sufi preachers and scholars who are venerated by Muslims here. The Islamic rebels destroyed several earthen tombs of those saints, claiming such shrines were forbidden.

During their hasty departure from the city last weekend, the fighters struck another parting blow, setting fire to dozens of ancient manuscripts at the Ahmed Baba Institute, the city’s biggest and most important library.


It turned out the worries were not unwarranted. In the chaotic final days of the Islamist occupation, all that changed. A group of militants stormed the library as they were fleeing and set fire to whatever they could find.

Fortunately, they got their hands on only a tiny portion of the library’s collection.

“They managed to find less than 5 percent,” he said. “Thank God they were not able to find anything else.”

None of the city’s libraries are in a hurry to return their collections from their hiding places, even though Timbuktu is back under government control.

Can't say I blame them. As for that less-fortunate less than 5 percent, Matt Blake and Sam Webb at the Daily Mail have some heartbreaking photos: Mali's history goes up in flames: Pictures show priceless texts torched by Islamist fighters fleeing French forces at Timbuktu.
These pictures show the scorched remains of priceless historical documents torched by Islamist fighters before they fled French troops as they closed in on Timbuktu.

The extremists set fire to a library containing thousands of priceless historic manuscripts as they fled French and Malian forces.

Without firing a shot, 1,000 French soldiers backed by 200 Malian troops descended on the ancient desert trading post, as they tried to cut off the escape of al Qaeda-linked fighters.

But before they could be rounded up, the rebels scattered into the desert, torching homes, mosques and libraries, including parts of the city's £16-million Ahmed Baba Institute, home to some 20,000 ancient documents on culture, science and geography, as they left.

Background here and links.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Animating the Talmud

THE TALMUD in cartoon format:
Animating the Talmud
Studio G-dcast videos bring together animators and storytellers to put a modern spin on ancient Jewish texts

By Samuel Thrope|January 28, 2013 7:00 AM| (Tablet)

Rabbi Eliezer, in his purple robe and flowing gray beard, curls his fists in concentration as he miraculously reverses the direction of a river’s flowing, cerulean water. A paper-cut Moses looks on in surprise as Rabbi Akiva teaches his many students, all colored in yellows and pastels. Rabban Gamliel, sporting a bow tie and monocle, shakes his jowls and wields his gavel as he publicly shames a thin and meek Rabbi Yehoshua.

The Talmud has never looked so good.

Last August, a group of young Jewish artists gathered at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum to write, record, and animate the short films from which these scenes are taken. Over the course of one intensive week, the participating animators and storytellers, many of whom were encountering the Talmud for the first time, brought to life six of the Babylonian Talmud’s best-known tales. Organized by G-dcast, the Jewish nonprofit production company best known for its animations of the Bible, this new initiative, called Studio G-dcast, is out to change the way American Jews approach the Talmud.