Friday, April 05, 2013

Byzantine-era wine press etc.

HERE IS THE CHURCH, HERE IS THE STEEPLE ... Discoveries at Hamei Yoav: A 1,500 year old wine press and a ceramic model of a church.
JERUSALEM.- A settlement from the Byzantine period in which an impressive wine press and a ceramic model of a church were preserved was exposed in salvage excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted near Hamei Yoav prior to the construction of an events garden by the Shevet Ahim group, led by the Yifrah Brothers.

The link is to (and the quote from) an article at ArtDaily. The original IAA press release (from which the photo comes) is here (HT Joseph Lauer). Follow the links for more photos of the site.

photograph: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

DSS crowds in Cincinnati

POPULAR: Cincinnati Museum Center: Some Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit times extended to accommodate crowds.

Exhibitions of the Dead Sea Scrolls are generally very successful.

Background on this one is here and links.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Forthcoming: Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics

Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics

The Hebrew language has one of the longest attested histories of any of the world’s languages, with records of its use from antiquity until modern times. Although it ceased to be a spoken language by the 2nd century C.E., Hebrew continued to be used and to develop in the form of a literary and liturgical language until its revival as a vernacular in the 20th century.
In a four volume set, complete with index, the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics offers a systematic and comprehensive treatment of all aspects of the history and study of the Hebrew language from its earliest attested form to the present day. The encyclopedia contains overview articles that provide a readable synopsis of current knowledge of the major periods and varieties of the Hebrew language as well as thematically-organized entries which provide further information on individual topics, such as the Hebrew of various sources (texts, manuscripts, inscriptions, reading traditions), major grammatical features (phonology, morphology, and syntax), lexicon, script and paleography, theoretical linguistic approaches, and so forth. With over 950 entries and approximately 400 contributing scholars, the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics is the authoritative reference work for students and researchers in the fields of Hebrew linguistics, general linguistics, Biblical studies, Hebrew and Jewish literature, and related fields.
And for you, special deal: a pre-publication price of only 850 Euros! (This is in the e-mail announcement, but I don't see it on the web page.)

Fighting in Palmyra

TEMPLE OF BAAL: Syria's ancient oasis city of Palmyra threatened in fighting.
(Reuters) - The millenia-old oasis city of Palmyra is being damaged in clashes between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces and rebels fighting for his overthrow in the midst of the precious archaeological site, a resident said on Wednesday.
Background here.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Rollston on unprovenanced inscriptions

THE ASOR BLOG: Using Inscriptions from the Antiquities Market: Polarized Positions and Pragmatic Proposals (Christopher A. Rollston). I agree with his conclusions and would put it perhaps a little more aggressively: unprovenanced inscriptions should be regarded as forgeries in the absence of strong positive evidence to the contrary. I have some related thoughts here and links.

Criticism of the Lod Mosaic exhibition

THE DAILY PENNSYLVANIAN: Professors critique Penn Museum's ‘Lod Mosaic’ exhibit: The professors submitted a statement to the museum director with their concerns.
Limited information is known about the history of the Lod Mosaic, but a number of Penn faculty have voiced concern that the piece is presented without any archaeological context. “We don’t want to celebrate a master work in isolation,” said Professor of Roman architecture Lothar Haselberger, who initiated the conversation on how the mosaic is presented.

“Nothing is conveyed to the public that [the mosaic] is more than a carpet,” Haselberger said, referencing the fact that mosaics like the “Lod Mosaic” were popular in this time period as floor decorations in many buildings.

“This is an exhibit that really focuses on the meticulous conservation by the Israel Antiquities Authority of a dazzling Roman mosaic that was found during highway construction,” said Brian Rose, Curator-in-Charge of the Mediterranean Section at the Penn Museum.
Via Joseph I. Lauer. Background on the exhibition and the mosaic is here with many links.

More on Herod the Great

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Herod the Great: Friend of the Romans and Parthians?Jason M. Schlude explores how King Herod manipulated his position between two regional powers.

Background on Herod and the current exhibition about him at the Israel Museum is here, leading to many links.

Shanks, Christianity & Rabbinic Judaism

Christianity & Rabbinic Judaism 2nd Edition

Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism
A Parallel History of their Origins and Early Development

Edited by Hershel Shanks

ITEM: 7H192

ISBN 978-1-935335-52-8

A unique look at two of the world’s great religions

This newly revised parallel history of Judaism and Christianity presents the first six centuries in the development of both religions in one understandable volume. This unprecedented book takes readers from the middle of the first century—when a distinction between Judaism and Christianity first became apparent—to theArab conquest. This book begins where its companion volume, Ancient Israel, ends.

The first edition appeared more than two decadesago and has since become a standard text book and reference work for undergraduate, graduate and Bible study courses across the country. The book’s editor and contributing authors have now written a completely updated and revised edition that incorporates the most important finds andi nsights from the past two decades of archaeological, historical and biblical research.

More than 65 images enhance the text, many illustrating the most dramatic and importantf inds discovered in the Holy Land and elsewhere in recent decades. It also includes, for the first time, informative maps detailing the many sites and regions where the shared histories of these two world religions unfolded
Follow the link for TOC and ordering information.

Macaskill, The Slavonic Texts of 2 Enoch

The Slavonic Texts of 2 Enoch
In The Slavonic Texts of 2 Enoch, Grant Macaskill publishes the manuscript evidence for this important pseudepigraphon in a format that, for the first time, allows synoptic comparison of the variants encountered. With the long and short recensions represented on facing pages, and variants listed against two exemplars (J and A), readers will be able to weigh the textual and linguistic evidence in a way that has previously been hindered by the available publications of 2 Enoch. The book also includes an introductory discussion of the manuscripts and the problems associated with text-critical work on them, and a translation of the neglected manuscript B, with notes on the significance of its readings for the reconstruction of an ur-text.
Some background here. Cross-file under "Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch."

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Shroud of Turin latest

THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT: Shroud 2.0: A High-Tech Look at One of Christianity’s Most Important Artifacts.

Background on the Shroud of Turin is here and links.

Ancient synagogue damaged but not destroyed

Ancient Syrian synagogue hit by looting, shelling

BEIRUT | Mon Apr 1, 2013 6:10pm BST

(Reuters) - Theft and shelling have damaged a 2,000 year-old synagogue in Damascus, one of the oldest in the world, Syrian government and opposition activist sources said on Monday.

Syria's historic monuments have increasingly become a casualty of the civil war has killed more than 70,000 people. Parts of Aleppo's medieval stone-vaulted souk have been reduced to rubble, and many ancient markets, mosques and churches across the country are threatened with destruction.

The damage has so far been light at the Jobar Synagogue, built in honour of the biblical prophet Elijah, according to Mamoun Abdulkarim, the head of Syria's antiquities department.

"Local community officials say the place's sanctity has been violated and there were thefts but I cannot verify the nature of the thefts without investigation," Abdulkarim told Reuters by telephone.

"Four months earlier they (Jewish authorities) tried to go in and were prevented from entering due to the presence of fighters."

He said that authorities believed looters have mostly stolen gold chandeliers and icons dating back 70 to 100 years.

But Abdulkarim said he doubted that thousands of priceless manuscripts had been stolen from the synagogue as most of them, including Torahs in filigreed silver cases, had already been moved to the synagogue inside Damascus's Old City, a UNESCO world heritage site.

A similar report comes from the AP: Historic synagogue in Damascus damaged, looted. It sounds as though JTA got ahead of itself when it reported yesterday that the synagogue was destroyed. So the current status is that the news is bad, but not nearly as bad as was initially reported. I hope the current report is the one that is accurate.

Monday, April 01, 2013

The Walking Dead

EASTER THOUGHTS FROM JARED CALAWAY: Creepiest Part of Jesus' Death and Resurrection in the Gospels.

Matthew 27:52-53 is an odd passage that leaves many loose ends and open questions. Why does it say "many bodies" as though the souls might be elsewhere, leaving ... zombies? What were the reactions of the hapless folk in the Holy City when confronted by these reanimated bodies? Joy at seeing lost loved ones again? Terror? Confusion? Baseball bats? What happened to these bodies? Did they have souls and settle in and rejoin society for an extra lifetime? Did they go back to their graves after a while and climb back in? Were they all slain again by the living? Or did they shuffle off into the wilderness to prey on passers by?

The implications of the passage arising from an intertextual reading with the zombie apocalypse have been noted before, and I have commented on them here.

Bar Kokhba

I BLOG, YOU DECIDE: Bar Kochba and Pesach: Zionist Hero or Rabbinical Rogue? (Times of Israel).

Ancient synagogue destroyed

REPORT: Historic Damascus synagogue looted and destroyed: Assad forces and rebels trade blame for destruction of 2,000-year-old Jobar shul, Syria’s holiest Jewish site (JTA).
The synagogue is said to be built on the site where the prophet Elijah concealed himself from persecution and anointed his successor, Elisha, as a prophet. It had been damaged earlier this month by mortars reportedly fired by Syrian government forces.

The rebels said the Syrian government looted the synagogue before burning it to the ground, Israel Radio reported Sunday.

The government said the rebels burned the synagogue and that so-called Zionist agents stole its historic religious items in an operation that had been planned for several weeks, the Arabic Al-Manar Television reported, citing the Arabic Syria Truth website.

The news came as Jews around the world marked the final days of Passover, the festival of freedom.

One of the oldest synagogues in the world, the shul was partially destroyed by Syrian government shelling four weeks ago, according to a video posted to YouTube.
Assuming the report is accurate, this is yet another tragedy in the disaster that is currently Syria.

UPDATE (2 April): It looks as though the report was not accurate: current accounts from Reuters and the AP say the synagogue has been damaged but not destroyed.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Shroud of Turin

'TIS THE SEASON: New experiments on Shroud [of Turin] show it’s not medieval (Vatican Insider).

It's dismaying to see how readily this has been taken up by the media and blogs. Here's a helpful rule of thumb: stories timed for Easter about how the Shroud of Turin turns out to be ancient after all are likely to have some problems with them. Steve Caruso has a blog post that sums up the problems with this one: "New experiments on [the Shroud of Turin] show it’s not medieval" -- What?? (the Aramaic Blog).

Briefly, if your multiple scientific test results give you a (95% certain!) 1500-year range, maybe rather than averaging them you should start thinking about whether your samples are contaminated or incorrectly provenanced. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Archbishop of Turin (who as the official custodian of the Shroud would have every reason to welcome the conclusion) doubts that the samples are actually from the Shroud and dismisses the results.

Background on the Shroud of Turin and the endless less-than-securely-founded theories about it is here and just keep following those links back.


HAPPY EASTER to all those celebrating!

New Testament resurrection narratives are noted here, although for some reason I neglected to mention 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. I see that in the same post I also linked to the resurrection narrative in the Gospel of Peter. All the links in that post have rotted, but you can find a live link to the Gospel of Peter here.

Ultimate monster battle

BETTER THAN GODZILLA VS. KING KONG: Leviathan vs. Behemoth ( Jared Calaway).