Saturday, August 03, 2013

Lim, The Formation of the Jewish Canon

FORTHCOMING BOOK: Timothy H. Lim, The Formation of the Jewish Canon (The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library; Yale University Press, October 2013).
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls provides unprecedented insight into the nature of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament before its fixation. Timothy Lim here presents a complete account of the formation of the canon in Ancient Judaism from the emergence of the Torah in the Persian period to the final acceptance of the list of twenty-two/twenty-four books in the Rabbinic period.

Using the Hebrew Bible, the Scrolls, the Apocrypha, the Letter of Aristeas, the writings of Philo, Josephus, the New Testament, and Rabbinic literature as primary evidence he argues that throughout the post-exilic period up to around 100 CE there was not one official “canon” accepted by all Jews; rather, there existed a plurality of collections of scriptures that were authoritative for different communities. Examining the literary sources and historical circumstances that led to the emergence of authoritative scriptures in ancient Judaism, Lim proposes a theory of the majority canon that posits that the Pharisaic canon became the canon of Rabbinic Judaism in the centuries after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Why blog, indeed?

MARK GOODACRE has a recent series of posts on academic blogging. PaleoJudaica comes up repeatedly with much praise. Thanks Mark!

Why blog?

Academic blogging: When and Why?

Academic Blogging: What are the benefits?

Megatron, Metatron, whatever.

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: Megatron & Metatron (& Supernatural & Star Wars & Voltron) (Photos) (Mariano Grinbank, The Examiner).

The information about the Enoch and Metatron mythology is pretty accurate, although Metatron appears only in 3 Enoch, not 1 Enoch or 2 Enoch.

For Metatron in Supernatural, see here.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Lucid dreaming of angels

EXPLANATION: Biblical visions of angels may have actually been lucid dreams: Fifteen patients in an experiment reported experiencing a lucid dream state and encountering angels during that time. (Live Science, via Mother Nature Network*).
Sleep researchers say they have established that many of the visions of angels and other religious encounters described in the Bible were likely "the products of spontaneous lucid dreams."

In a sleep study by the Out-Of-Body Experience Research Center in Los Angeles, 30 volunteers were instructed to perform a series of mental steps upon waking up or becoming lucid during the night that might lead them to have out-of-body experiences culminating in perceived encounters with an angel. Half of them succeeded, the researchers said.

Specifically, the volunteers were told to try to re-create the story of Elijah, a prophet who is referenced in the Talmud, the Bible and the Quran. In one of the stories in the Bible's Book of Kings, Elijah flees to the wilderness and falls asleep under a juniper tree, exhausted and prepared to die. Suddenly an angel shakes him awake and tells him to eat. He looks around and, to his surprise, sees a loaf of bread baked on some coals and a jug of water. Elijah eats the meal and goes back to sleep. Lead researcher Michael Raduga said this event was chosen from among a multitude of biblical passages involving religious visions during the night, because, "in terms of verifiable results, angels were the ideal choice, as Western culture provides a relatively well-established image for them (wings, white robes, halos, etc.)."

The research, which has not been reviewed by peers for scientific publication, does garner support from some dreams researchers who were not involved in Raduga's study. They said the findings support further inquiry into the basis of such religious visions. One dream expert, however, pointed out that many religious tales of angelic encounters occurred in daytime, which suggests they could not have been dreams.

Because evidently that expert was unfamiliar with the concept of the "afternoon nap."

Seriously, although this project—as the article forthrightly admits—was not peer reviewed and doesn't have any clear scientific validity, it does offer some anectodal support to the idea that various types of altered states of consciousness, especially when properly prepped by the active imagination, can result in visions of angels. I think it is likely that this sort of thing is behind some of the ancient biblical, apocalyptic, and mystical accounts of supernatural visions. More on that here, here, and here.

*Published originally in December of 2011. Don't know how I missed it.

Ghost of an ancient "friendship" tablet?

THIS ANCIENT BRONZE TABLET may have existed after all: Israeli Historian Proves Roman-Jewish 'Friendship' Tablet: Tablet turns the world of historical research upside down; cites ancient Jewish warrior "Judah Maccabee" (Hana Levi Julian, Arutz Sheva). Excerpt:
The article authored by Dr. Linda Zollschan, which appears in Classica Et Mediaevalia, the Danish Journal of Philology and History, Volume 63, proves a long-gone bronze tablet displaying ‘friendship’ between Rome and Israel’s Jews did indeed exist. The research has overturned previous assertions to the contrary.

Ancient writers – Josephus, Justinus and Eusebius – have all made reference to the fact that the Jews received “friendship” (a technical term for diplomatic ties, just below formal diplomatic relations) from the Romans. Memory of this event was preserved through oral and written tradition into the Middle Ages on a bronze tablet that once hung in the Church of San Basilio in Rome, says Zollschan in her article.

“The bronze tablet had been well known, for it was remembered after it had disappeared from sight and given attention in the Mirabilia, a guidebook which had wide currency and was still being reprinted and used into the sixteenth century,” Zollschan explains.

“The tablet was singled out for attention because of its mention of Judas Maccabaeus who was held in high regard in the Middle Ages. The story of the Maccabaean revolt against the Seleucid king served as an allegory of the battles of the Church against its enemies. The success of the Jews with G-d’s help was also considered an uplifting exemplar of military leadership and later (during the Crusades) as the defender of Jerusalem.”

That it was inscribed on bronze defines it as an inscription that had significance in its own right, and that it was not used as building material, as were so many stone inscriptions, she adds. Its text, which contained mention of Judas Maccabeaeus — Judah Maccabee – gave it a religious significance, reminding the viewer of Judah the warrior, aided by G-d, who succeeded against overwhelming odds in his battle against the Syrian Seleucid army.

Till now, most historians in the field have believed the tablet – which has not been seen in centuries – was only a myth confused with one inscribed in stone.

“There are several indicators to be considered that speak for the tablet’s authenticity,” Zollschan argues in her article.
The rhetoric in the Arutz Sheva article is, frankly, embarrassing. The world of historical research has not been turned upside done or even joggled. I haven't read the Danish article and I know better than to judge it on the basis of a summary in a popular article like this, but the case here certainly doesn't constitute "proof." It is a very interesting argument, though. Against it is that the artifact, if it ever existed, is now lost, and fabricated ancient relics are hardly a rarity in Rome. In its favor are some elements of the description of the artifact that could point to it having been real and genuinely ancient.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Last day to register for BNTC 2013!

REGISTRATION FOR THE 2013 MEETING OF THE BRITISH NEW TESTAMENT CONFERENCE in St. Andrews (29-31 August) at the standard rate is still open and you can book online here. Registration closes TODAY, so this is your last chance!

Job in postbiblical Judaism

JOB AT MISSOURI STATE UNIVERSITY: Assistant Professor of Religious Studies.
The Department of Religious Studies anticipates an August 2014 opening for an assistant professor specializing in post-biblical Judaism, tenure eligible. The department is particularly interested in scholars of rabbinic, medieval, or early modern Judaism, whose research interests engage fields such as classical texts and/or biblical commentary, gender studies, or interreligious encounter. The successful candidate will teach undergraduate and M.A. courses in Judaism and will regularly teach one of the department’s survey courses. The candidate is expected to pursue an active research agenda and provide service to the department, college, and university.
Further particulars and application information are at the link.

Via Leslie Baynes on Facebook.

Talmud stuff

SEVERAL ITEMS PERTAINING TO THE TALMUD have accrued while I was away. First, Adam Kirsch has published two new Daf Yomi columns in Tablet.

In the Shadow of the Divine, Reaping Unintended Benefits at the Edges of the Law. Daf Yomi: A closer look at the Holy of Holies provides a fascinating illustration of how the rabbis of the Talmud read the Bible.
The Mishnah says that, as long as it is permitted to eat the chametz—that is, until the sixth hour of the day before Passover—it can also be sold to a non-Jew. After that point, when eating it is prohibited, “its benefit is forbidden,” so that one cannot even “fire an oven or stove with it.” This seemingly simple rule gives rise to a very long and complicated discussion in the Gemara. Why, the rabbis ask, does the Mishnah extend the ban on chametz from eating it to all forms of benefiting from it? What is the biblical basis for this law? After all, in Exodus 13:3 God tells Moses: “Remember this day, in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place; there shall no leavened bread be eaten.” How does “eaten” get interpreted to mean “used in any way”?

The reason, we learn, comes from a general rule of biblical interpretation, attributed to Abahu: “Wherever it is stated one shall not eat, or you shall not eat, both a prohibition against eating and a prohibition against benefit are indicated, unless Scripture specifies otherwise.” For the next several pages, other Amoraim cite a number of biblical verses meant either to support or to challenge Abahu’s rule. In the process, they offer a fascinating illustration of how the rabbis of the Talmud read the Bible.
The Talmud, in Seeking To Eliminate Ambiguity, Maps the Invisible Onto the Visible. Daf Yomi: Much of the rabbinical ingenuity is devoted to figuring out how to draw clear lines in murky situations.
The Talmud’s need to fix the status of rice, to decide whether it belongs in the category of chametz or not, is one example of an impulse we saw at work several times in this week’s Daf Yomi reading: the need to eliminate ambiguities. The rabbis are deeply uneasy with what we now call “liminal states”—moments of uncertainty and transition, when it’s impossible to say exactly what something is or what category it belongs to. In our multicultural, postmodern society, liminality is usually prized: American Jews in particular glory in it, refusing to let one term of their identity constrain the other. But for the rabbis, in the words of the old song, it’s gotta be this or that: tamei or tahor, permitted or forbidden. Much of the Talmud’s ingenuity is devoted to figuring out how to draw clear lines in murky situations.
Second, Episode Two of BBC Radio 4's series The Story of the Talmud is now online.

Third, at Exploring Our Matrix, James McGrath relays some Talmudic Humor, with (of course) commentary.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

BNTC registration closes tomorrow!

REGISTRATION FOR THE 2013 MEETING OF THE BRITISH NEW TESTAMENT CONFERENCE in St. Andrews (29-31 August) at the standard rate is still open and you can book online here. Registration closes tomorrow, on 31 July, so why not register now?

Law, When God Spoke Greek

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Why should we care about the Septuagint? (OUP Blog). A profile of T. Michael Law's When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible. For an interview with Law, go here.

I have a huge blogging backlog, but more pressing backlogs of work have to take precedence. I will try to catch up this week.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Enoch Seminar, Camaldoli, La Verna, and Rome

THE SEVENTH ENOCH SEMINAR was very successful. The subject was the Enochic literature and the Synoptic Gospels. By the end of the conference there was a pretty broad consensus that at least some of the writers of the Synoptics knew some of the Enochic literature. I had thought so anyway before I came, and a good many other attenders had as well, but more thought so at the end than at the beginning.

Aside from that generalization, I'm not going to talk in detail about the conference. If you want to join, you can read the current drafts of the papers at the Enoch Seminar website. And note the past posts on the Second Enoch Seminar (links are dead, sorry), the Fifth Enoch Seminar (with links), and the Sixth Enoch Seminar (with links).

But I do want to share some historical varia with you from this trip. Click on the images to enlarge them.

The Enoch Seminar met in and stayed at the guest house of the Monastery of Camaldoli in the mountains of Tuscany.

This was the view from the window of my room at sunrise.

On a day trip we visited the Hermitage of Camaldoli, which in 2012 had celebrated the 1000-year anniversary of its founding. (Apparently historians say the founding was actually closer to 1025 but, hey, who's counting?) This is the church at the Hermitage.

Here's the ceiling of a side room of the church, which is decorated with the four cherubim in 1930s Art Deco style.

On the same day trip we visited the Monastery of La Verna, founded by St. Francis of Assisi. They are celebrating the 800th anniversary of its founding this year. Above is a view of the Basilica.

Here is the cloak St. Francis was wearing when he received the stigmata.

Regular readers may remember that in 2013 the University of St. Andrews is celebrating the 600th anniversary of its founding, an anniversary of which we are justly very proud. But I have to admit that visiting Camaldoli and La Verna kind of made me feel like a newb.

That takes us to Friday. Onward then to Rome. I am grateful to my friend Ally, on whom I descended at the weekend, demanding to be shown all of the antiquities in Rome in one day. We didn't quite make it to all of them, but we did all right. She trekked with me through the area all around the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, sharing her extensive local knowledge.

The Roman Forum.

The Colosseum.

The highlight of my Rome trip was a visit to the Arch of Titus.

Here's Ally standing next to the Arch.

And here's a close-up of the relief to the right of her, which shows the triumphal Roman procession carrying the spoils plundered from the Jerusalem Temple after the defeat of the Jewish Revolt in 70 CE. The golden menora is especially visible. Josephus witnessed the scene and described it in the Jewish War. Earlier PaleoJudaica posts involving the Arch of Titus are here, here, here, and here. Some posts on the looted Temple menorah and associated artifacts are here, here, here, and links.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Heading back

EXCELLENT ENOCH SEMINAR, followed by a whirlwind tour of antiquities in Rome. I'm heading to the airport now to return to Scotland. Photos and trip commentary to follow in due course.

Cats revisited

REVISITING AN IMPORTANT QUESTION: More on Semitic cats (Rebecca Lesses at Mystical Politics). John Huenhergard has an article out on Semitic words for "cat." Cool.

Background here.