Saturday, April 27, 2013

Lag B'Omer

LAG B'OMER is observed beginning tonight at sundown. Best wishes to all those celebrating.

Also, the same day in the Jewish calendar is the yahrzeit for R. Shimon bar Yochai, as noted by Arutz Sheva (although it's a pity they couldn't be bothered to extend their research beyond Wikipedia). More on R. Shimon bar/ben Yochai here and links.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Report on DSS "kickoff event"

AT BRANDEIS: Professors discuss import of Dead Sea Scrolls: Kickoff event held for educational collaboration with Museum of Science.

Background here and links.

Metatron slumming it in Silent Hill

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: This is not a place you want to go.

Irish apocrypha again (etc.)

PHILIP JENKINS has more on Irish apocrypha: THE THREE WISE DRUIDS.

Background here.

UPDATE: And here's another interesting post from Jenkins to which I meant to link: CANONS OF SCRIPTURE. Excerpt:
If you want to understand the history of Christian thought, in the sense of what a substantial majority of Christians actually thought and believed through much of the history of the faith, then you cannot ignore these many alternative scriptures, texts like the Gospel of Nicodemus and pseudo-Matthew, the infancy gospels and the Book of Enoch. They really were that influential. Nor was their impact confined to the poor and uneducated.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Covergence and Divergence in Pentateuchal Theory

Convergence and Divergence in Pentateuchal Theory:
Bridging the Academic Cultures of Israel, North America and Europe

Date: May 12–13, 2013
Location: Israel Institute for Advanced Studies, The Hebrew University.

The Pentateuch lies at the heart of the Western humanities. Yet despite nearly two centuries of critical scholarship, the human origins of this monument of civilization remain shrouded in the past. Indeed, the traditional conception of a unified, self-consistent foundation narrative has long been given up. Critical scholarship has isolated multiple layers of tradition, inconsistent laws, and narratives that could only have originated from separate communities within ancient Israel, and were joined together at a relatively late stage by a process of splicing and editing.

Recent developments in academic biblical studies, however, jeopardize the revolutionary progress that has been made over the last two centuries. The so-called “Documentary Hypothesis” has dominated academic discourse on the Pentateuch since the end of the nineteenth century. More recently, however, the source-critical method has come under unprecedented attack. In fact, in many quarters it has been rejected entirely. While new perspectives are constantly being generated to replace traditional paradigms, the past forty years of scholarship have witnessed not simply a proliferation of intellectual models, but the fragmentation of discourse, especially among Israeli, European, and North American scholars.

This conference seeks to further international exchange and re-establish a shared intellectual. Presentations will be offered by a group of twenty-five international scholars, drawn from the fields of Biblical Studies, Second Temple/Dead Sea Scrolls, and Jewish Studies, with extensive time for discussion and debate.

Organizers: Bernard M. Levinson, University of Minnesota; Konrad Schmid, University of Zurich; Baruch J. Schwartz, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and Jan Christian Gertz, Heidelberg University.

Speakers: Joel Baden, Yale University; Mark J. Boda, McMaster Divinity College; David Carr, Union Theological Seminary; Cynthia Edenburg, The Open University of Israel; Jan Joosten, University of Strasbourg; Reinhard G. Kratz, University of Göttingen; Christoph Levin, University of Munich; Noam Mizrahi, Tel Aviv University; Christophe Nihan, University of Lausanne; Thomas Römer, University of Lausanne and Collège de France; Christopher Rollston, George Washington University; Dalit Rom-Shiloni, Tel Aviv University; Michael Segal, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Jean Louis Ska, Pontifical Biblical Institute; Jean-Pierre Sonnet, Pontifical Gregorian University; Jeffrey Stackert, University of Chicago; Jakob Wöhrle, University of Münster; David Wright, Brandeis University; Molly Zahn, University of Kansas.

For more information:

Samaritan Passover 2013

Samaritans make annual sacrifice - and preserve a way of life
Although there are now less than 800 Samaritans, their Passover sacrifice - set according to calendar different from the mainstream Jewish one - draws an even bigger crowd.

By Andrew Esensten | Apr.24, 2013 | 5:55 PM | 2

The Samaritan community conducted its annual Passover sacrifice Tuesday evening under the leadership of a new high priest, as 50 sheep were slaughtered on Mount Gerizim in an ancient ceremony that attracted more than 1,000 spectators from around the world.

High Priest Aabed-El Ben Asher was elevated to his position, which is reserved for the eldest member of the priestly family, following the death last week of High Priest Aaron Ben Ab-Hisda at age 84. Ben Asher, 78, is the 133rd high priest in a line that the Samaritans claim stretches back to Aaron, brother of Moses.

More on Samaritan Passover here and links. More on the succession of the Samaritan high priesthood in 2010 here. And a recent post on the new translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch is here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

2013 York Christian Apocrypha Symposium

TONY BURKE: 2013 York Christian Apocrypha Symposium. Happening in September.

Talmud latest

A TALMUD MUSICAL: A Talmud Tale: A Musical: by Judith Abrams, David Schechter, Ned Paul Ginsburg. Published, but apparently not yet performed.

Happy St. George's Day!

CANDIDA MOSS: St George's Day, celebrating a mythical martyr? It seems she doesn't believe the bit about the dragon.

Ignore her, she probably doesn't believe in Santa Claus either.

More on Professor Moss's work here, on St. George here, and on St. Nicholas here and links.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Speaking of Jewish messiahs ...

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: When Messiah Is an Afterthought: The Talmud’s pragmatism and wonder meet in a technical problem about the height of a boundary line.
As best I can recall, in my Talmud reading so far there has been only one reference to the Messiah. This came in Tractate Berachot, where one sage was cited as saying that the deeds of the Messiah would not be supernatural, but political—that the only difference between our world and the messianic age would be the restoration of Jewish sovereignty. And it makes sense that messianism should not, at least so far, be a major concern of the Talmud’s rabbis. After all, they are not theologians but legislators, concerned with how Jews should live in the here and now.

In this week’s Daf Yomi reading, however, the subject of the Messiah returned, in an utterly unexpected and roundabout fashion. ...
A flying Messiah, no less, which brings to mind flying Jesus, as well as the flying Man from the Sea in 4 Ezra 13 who is mentioned in the article cited in the immediately preceding post.

Previous Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Review of Boyarin, The Jewish Gospels

DANIEL BOYARIN'S BOOK THE JEWISH GOSPELS receives a quite sympathetic review by Simon Rocker at The Jewish Chronicle: Why a 'divine' messiah was not beyond belief: A new book by a leading Jewish scholar turns some of our preconceptions about Jesus and the origins of Christianity on their head. Excerpt:
But a daring new book by one of the world’s leading Jewish scholars challenges this simple contrast. The Jewish Gospels is a short work aimed at general readers by Daniel Boyarin, a professor of Talmud at the University of California in Berkeley. In ancient times, the borders between what Judaism and Christianity were far more porous than we conceive today, he argues: it was not until the fourth century that the doctrinal differences were clarified, not least because of the desire of the Roman-backed church to put clear water between the spreading new faith and those it considered Jews.

His most explosive contention is that the concept of a divine messiah was not an alien import but part of the cauldron of ideas that bubbled in the volatile world of classical Judaism. “The basic underlying thoughts from which both the Trinity and the incarnation grew are there in the very world into which Jesus was born,” he writes.
Background here and links, where you will see that Peter Schäfer's review of the book goes rather further than believing "that Boyarin overstates his case."

Monday, April 22, 2013

Ancient church discovered in Shiloh?

REPORT: Nearly 1,700-year-old Church found in Shiloh, Israel (
One of the oldest churches ever to be excavated in Israel was recently discovered at the archaeological site of Tel Shiloh, where the temporary Jewish Temple once stood, in Samaria.

The church, dating from the fourth century CE, was discovered at the site believed that once housed the Ark of the Covenant of the ancient Israelis. The discovery has created much excitement among Christians.
This is the only report of the discovery I can find and, as you can see, it seems pretty vague on geography and chronology. The report says that some mosaics and then the church were discovered when a drainage ditch was dug to clear the excavation of rain water.

UPDATE (23 April): Joseph Lauer e-mails to point out that a very similar story circulated back in 2006. It was noted at PaleoJudaica here. It looks as though the new story is just a recycling of the old one.

The historical Jesus

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Is Historical Jesus Research Futile? (James McGrath).

Syriac in Turkey again

Turkey’s Syriacs yearn to be able to teach Syriac to their children

21 April 2013 /YONCA POYRAZ DOĞAN, İSTANBUL (Today's Zaman)

Turkey’s Syriacs have long been seeking ways to teach their ancient language, culture and religion to their children; they finally asked a court in Ankara to right a wrong and allow them to open schools which would include a Syriac education.

“My family has been living in Anatolia for centuries, but I don’t know Syriac. I wish there were kindergartens that started Syriac language education at an early age,” said Nazan Söğüt, who has a daughter in the eighth grade and a son in the third grade in İstanbul.

“We would like to have schools at the kindergarten level in accordance with the Education Ministry’s instructions and with certain hours of language courses in Syriac. We only want to prevent the death of our 5,500-year-old language,” said Ezel Muratoğlu, a mother of two children who live in İstanbul’s Moda district. The battle of Syriacs in the Turkish bureaucracy has failed a number of times in its effort to teach their children their ancient language. In the middle of last year, the local education authority in İstanbul did not give them permission to open kindergartens that could teach Syriac. The Syriacs then went to the directorate of private schools with the same demand, but to no avail.

More stories on Syriac in Turkey here, here, here, and links.

Adam Kadmon on television

PHILOLOGOS: How Adam Kadmon Made the Leap From The Kabbalah to Italian Television: Primordial Man Has Had a Long, Strange History.
Is he an imaginative Italian investigative journalist? The descendant, as he claims to be, of an ancient family endowed with mystical powers, stemming from seven androids created thousands of years ago by an extraterrestrial geneticist in ancient Sumeria? A former peace activist — as he also claims — who was attacked and put out of commission in 1986 by a secret group of mobsters called “the Illuminati,” only to resurface again, in 2009, as a popular media figure?

It’s anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, as the guessing goes on, so does a weekly show on Italia 1 television in which Adam Kadmon, which means “primordial man” in the Hebrew of the Kabbalah, unravels such “mysteries” as the abdication of Pope Benedict, the death of Hugo Chávez and the secret life of Michael Jackson, and tilts with the Illuminati, who are still out to get him.

Despite his Hebrew name, there’s no need to suspect that he’s Jewish, because the kabbalistic figure of Adam Kadmon has had literary currency outside the Jewish world for a century or more; this goes back at least as far as the late 19th-century vogue for Theosophy, a movement that drew eclectically on a wide range of mystical sources.

DSS "kick-off event" at Brandeis

DEAD SEA SCROLLS IN BOSTON: Dead Sea Scrolls come alive at Brandeis April 23: Brandeis educational partnership with the Museum of Science provides unique insight into the era.

Background here and here and links.

More on Palmyra

SYRIA CONFLICT: Syria’s war is blasting the past (Adam Blitz, The Times of Israel).
Today it is Palmyra’s turn to face the bullet. It too is caught in conflict albeit with the Assad regime, Hezbollah’s bedfellow, and rebel opposition forces. It remains highly strategic. Quite simply Palmyra is “smack-bang” in the middle of Syria. ...

Palmyra remains an artistic marvel. It was one of the top tourist-destinations prior to the civil war. Its artistic heritage derives from its unique role as a buffer city which it first held in the 2nd Century between Rome in the West and Parthia (Iran) in the East. Palmyra responded to a state of “betwixt and between” and became one of the most prosperous of all caravan cities. As merchants of antiquity crisscrossed the desert, wealth flowed through the sands of Palmyra. Affluence found expression in a distinct yet hybrid art. It borrowed from Greek, Roman, Semitic and Iranian traditions while at the same time it offered its own local contribution.

This artistic endeavour finds its voice in the rich funerary art which can now be seen in the great museums of the world. In the town itself soaring burial towers, colonnades and temples dominate the landscape. The Temple of Bel is the most monumental of all of the temple-complexes in Palmyra. As with Baalbek, the Temple of Bel has retained the name of an earlier Semitic cult. It was associated with the Mesopotamian Baal, chief god of the pantheon. And as with Baabek’s Temple of Jupiter, the Temple of Bel also sits on the site of a much older Semitic temple.
More on Palmyra in the present conflict and on its historical and archaeological significance here and links.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"David era" temple/palace found near Jerusalem?

A COLUMN FROM AN IRON-AGE STRUCTURE has been found in "a deep cave south of Jerusalem." Everyone seems to agree on that much with reference to a story first published in English by the Jewish Press: King David Era Find ‘Buried’ by Authorities for Political Reasons (Yori Yanover). Excerpt:
That’s the story of a remarkably rare archeological discovery, which no one has heard about. For some reason, possibly political, the Israeli authorities have been trying to silence this discovery which could usher in a breakthrough in our understanding of the periods of King David and his son, King Solomon.

The column crown Tropper ran, or rather climbed down into, is very likely part of a complete temple or palace buried underground.

Tropper, who expected nothing short of a medal for his fortunate discovery, called over the field school’s director, Yaron Rosenthal, who in turn alerted a senior employee of Israel’s Antiquities Authority. But no medals were to come any time soon.
The story has also been covered by Arutz Sheva: Is the State Hiding a Major Bible Era Find? Makor Rishon says authorities are keeping lid on what may be a royal castle from David's time. For those who read Hebrew, the Makor Rishon article that broke the story is here. And Todd Bolen has a blog post up on the subject as well at his Bible Places Blog: Royal Architecture Found Near Jerusalem.

At this point all we know is a little about the structure and that the IAA had known about it for some time, but had elected, for reasons not yet clear, not to make it public. All else is speculation. Note that the first comment at Bolen's blog post, by Israeli archeologist Aren Maier, casts doubt on the structure being as early as the United Monarchy. A potentially "complete" ruin of a structure of this sort from any time in the Monarchic Period would still be exciting, but would not be as profoundly important as one from as early as the United Monarchy.

Just as an aside, I'm having trouble getting a mental picture of how you get a column attached to the relatively untouched (at least recently) ruin of an Iron-Age palace buried in the wall of a deep cave. But maybe that's just me. Presumably the full picture will become clear as more details emerge.

All of the links above were circulated by Joseph I. Lauer on his e-mail list.

Bible jobs in Norway

Professor/Associate Professor: Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies

Professor/Associate Professor in the New Testament
There is a catch: you have either to show up knowing a Scandinavian language or agree to learn Norwegian within two years.

(HT Liv Ingeborg Lied.)