Friday, April 12, 2013


BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION: Against Consensus (Joel S. Baden). I note that the author criticizes scholars for appealing to consensus without giving specific references. Fair enough, but this essay itself speaks only in generalizations and does not give a single reference, opening itself to the criticism of debunking a straw man.

Via James McGrath, who also comments. There was a discussion about consensus among the biblioblogs in 2005, but most of the links are now gone. My thoughts are here and here.

UPDATE: Mark Goodacre's posts are now here and here. Mark also has reminded me of another brief post of mine in the thread.

Pulsa deNura

THE PULSA DENURA RITE IS BACK IN THE NEWS: Wait…There Are Jewish Death Curses? Naftali Bennett just received one (Adam Chandler, Tablet).

Background here and links.

DSS lecturer

IAN WERRETT: Saint Martin’s Society Of Fellows Welcomes Dead Sea Scrolls Scholar As Spring Colloquium Speaker. Ian wrote his doctoral thesis on ritual purity in the Dead Sea Scrolls under my supervision.

Review of Barbour, The Story of Israel in the Book of Qohelet

Jennifer Barbour. The Story of Israel in the Book of Qohelet: Ecclesiastes as Cultural Memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. xv + 225 pp. $135.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-965782-7.

Reviewed by Jennifer L. Koosed (Albright College)
Published on H-Judaic (April, 2013)
Commissioned by Jason Kalman

The History-Haunted Meditations of Qohelet

Jennie Barbour’s The Story of Israel in the Book of Qohelet provides a new perspective on the issue of history in Qohelet. The scholarly consensus has been that historical reference is completely absent from Qohelet, a book that does not seem to be interested in either the figures or the events of ancient Israel. Barbour challenges this consensus. She argues that “history haunts Ecclesiastes” (p. 3). Barbour is not, however, trying to revive some Jewish and Christian traditional exegesis which assumes Solomonic authorship and imposes an allegorical and historicizing interpretation on the book. Rather, Barbour proposes that the author of Qohelet (highly educated and literate) is drawing on a wealth of textual traditions and a deep cultural memory that has been shaped by the experience of the Babylonian destruction and exile. This experience, then, leaves its mark on Qohelet’s meditations as well.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Akitu Festival

'Today (11 April 2013) at sunset is Babylonian New Year, Day 1 of the Month Nisannu of Year 2324 of the Seleucid Era, the beginning of the Akitu festival. It's now time for reading Enuma Elish and praying to Marduk' - Mathieu Ossendrijver
As usual, best wishes to all those celebrating.

Lovecraftian ruin

OBVIOUSLY LEFT BY THE ELDER THINGS: Monumental Cone-Shaped Structure Found in Sea of Galilee. I hope the archaeologists don't go and stir up a Shoggoth.

I also hope no one responds to this blog post with a peer-reviewed article.

Oldest Ethiopic manuscript of 1 Enoch

LOREN STUCKENBRUCK has been photographing the Oldest Known Text of Ethiopic Enoch (Anthony Le Donne).

A commenter asks about recent translations of 1 Enoch. My comment is in moderation, but meanwhile, the industry standard is George W. E. Nickelsburg and James C. Vanderkam, 1 Enoch: The Hermeneia Translation (Fortress, 2012). It is based on the magisterial two-volume Hermeneia commentary by the same authors:

George W. Nickelsburg 1 Enoch 1 (Fortress, 2001);

George W. E. Nickelsburg and James C. Vanderkam 1 Enoch 2: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, Chapters 37-82 (Fortress, 2011).

New JHS articles

NEW ARTICLES have been posted at the online Journal of Hebrew Scriptures. Click on the link to download the pdf file of the article.

Robert REZETKO, “The Qumran Scrolls of the Book of Judges: Literary Formation, Textual Criticism, and Historical Linguistics”

Abstract: This is a pilot attempt to combine literary-critical, text-critical, and historical linguistic approaches in an analysis of selected linguistic variants between the MT and DSS with an application to the book of Judges. The result of this interdisciplinary exercise is that future research on the history of BH will have to contend more earnestly with the “fluidity” (or “changeability”) of language and the “non-directionality” (or “patternlessness”) of linguistic variants in biblical texts.

Jeremiah W. CATALDO, “Yahweh’s Breasts: Interpreting Haggai’s Temple through Melanie Klein’s Projective Identification Theory”

Abstract: Haggai’s emphasis on the temple is driven more by a concern for a defensive preservation of social-political identity than it is for the institutional restoration of the cult. As a heuristic device, Melanie Klein's theory on projective identification helps identify constructivist elements in Haggai that highlight postures of defensive preservation as legitimations of the Jerusalem temple as a shared object. Haggai’s vision of a “restored” society is based on his belief that the symbolic value of the temple is a necessary, constructive element in the creation or manifestation of that society and its corresponding identity.

Also, there are new reviews added to the review page.

Do crosses walk, talk, and blog?

TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY PROBLEMS: Peer-reviewed article responding to a blog post: what is the etiquette? (Mark Goodacre).

I think the comment by Deane Galbraith is spot on.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Rollston on lab testing

In sum, the use of laboratory tests for inscriptions from the market is auspicious, but the labs conducting the tests must be vetted, protocols for the testing must be put in place in every case, and the results of the laboratory tests must be fully published so that they can be scrutinized as well. In short, there is much to be hopeful about, but methodological doubt must be maintained as well.
Just in case you thought the results of lab testing were conclusive.

Related recent item here.

How much interpretation is too much?

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Are Truffles Food? As our Talmud column returns, debates over Oral Law range from the existential to the mundane. Two topics from Tractate Eruvin in this one:
This numerical inflation reminded me of the saying chanted by the Israelites, in the First Book of Samuel, about Saul and David, comparing their greatness in battle: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” In Talmudic times, Jewish manliness was no longer measured in Philistine corpses, but in legal creativity. Still, there is a point, Eruvin 13b teaches, beyond which a sage can become too intellectually advanced.


What kinds of food, the rabbis ask, are capable of creating an eruv? Any food or drink, the Mishnah says in Eruvin 26b, except for salt and water. The food does not even have to be a kind that the person in question can actually eat. A Nazirite, for instance, vows not to drink wine, but it is permissible to use wine to create an eruv for him. This might seem so plain as to require no further discussion. But, of course, there is one, because of a principle the Gemara goes on to explain. “We cannot learn from general rules,” Rabbi Yochanan says, because any rule might carry unstated exceptions.


Reflections on the Lod Mosaic

MORGAN MEIS: Artspotting: Lod Mosaic. "Sometimes a floor is just a floor."

Background here and links.

Ancient mikveh in Jerusalem

Mikve from era of Second Temple excavated in J'lem

04/10/2013 10:42

In preparing to build a new highway near Jerusalem's Kiryat Menachem neighborhood, archeologists have discovered an ancient treasure.

An archeological excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority prior to the construction of a new road in Jerusalem's Kiryat Menachem neighborhood has led to the discovery of an ancient mikve (ritual bath) from the era of the Second Temple.

Binyamin Storchen, who headed the excavation, said that many mikves have been discovered in recent years, but the water running through this particular ritual bath is "unique and unusual."


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Authenticating the Gospel of Judas

Truth Behind Gospel of Judas Revealed in Ancient Inks

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 08 April 2013 Time: 11:30 AM ET

A long-lost gospel that casts Judas as a co-conspirator of Jesus, rather than a betrayer, was ruled most likely authentic in 2006. Now, scientists reveal they couldn't have made the call without a series of far more mundane documents, including Ancient Egyptian marriage licenses and property contracts.

An interesting story detailing the process of authenticating the Gospel of Judas. (HT David Meadows.) Here's an image gallery, also at LiveScience. More on the Gospel of Judas here with many links.

By the way, what ever happened to those authentication tests on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife? You know, the ones being arranged by the entirely impartial and disinterested owner of the fragment? And the tests to authenticate the fake metal codices? The ones that were going to take three weeks back in April of 2011? But don't even get me started on that one.

UPDATE: On the question of whether the Gospel of Judas "casts Judas as a co-conspirator of Jesus, rather than a betrayer," see here and links. This was the view of the scholars that published the text, but it has been very much disputed since then.

UPDATE (10 April): Related post here.

Temple treasures in the Vatican?

REQUEST: Pope Francis, please inventory the spoils of Titus! (Rosie Rosenzweig, The Examiner).
Which brings us to the present with Pope Francis advocating a “poor church for poor people;” this caused a flurry among Catholic writers to interpret this. Dr. William Oddie, former editor of the Catholic Herald immediately asked: “Should Pope Francis sell off the Vatican’s art collection and give the money to the poor? The answer is an emphatic ‘No’!” It’s not the paintings that would be a gesture to Jews curious to know if the Vatican archives still house the spoils of Titus from the Holy Temple. In 1996, Israel’s Minister of Religious Affairs, based on research at the University of Florence, Shimon Shetreet asked Pope John Paul II to help locate the menorah described in the Bible and depicted in Titus Arch. At another time, Israeli President Moshe Katzav asked the Vatican to inventory a list of Judaica and Temple treasures held there.

Presently, the heirs of owners contesting many art treasures stolen by the Nazis, join the posse of many museums in Iraq and Iran seeking museum missing treasures stolen during their country’s various invasions. It would be a grand gesture of good will to the Vatican’s “elder brothers” to research the archives for the Temple treasures. And then, if found, would it make the Vatican’s archives that much poorer, to return these ritual items to the country where they were made? Of course it may be that the Vatican treasury doesn’t contain Titus’ spoils from the sacking of the Temple as Edward Gibbon suggests, and that these treasures may be somewhere at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.
The idea that the Vatican might have some of the Temple treasures in its archives has been around for a while and I have explained here why I don't think it's likely. For Sean Kingsley's theory that they are in a monastery in the Holy Land see here and links. According to the legends in the external tractate Massekhet Kelim, the treasures are hidden in various sites in Palestine and Babylon. It is possible that the Copper Scroll is a list of Temple treasures hidden in Palestine in advance of the Great Revolt in 70 CE, but if so, most of the hiding places have probably been plundered and the treasures dispersed long since. I don't think the Temple treasures are at the bottom of any sea, but I would be surprised if any substantial portion of them remains collected at any one place today.