Saturday, December 07, 2013

Friday, December 06, 2013

More on the Temple in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Miraculous Architecture of the First Temple Leads to Religious Sectarianism in the Second. To the Talmudic rabbis, a miracle is more plausible than the notion that their sources were incorrect. Excerpt:
Imagine that you wanted to build an exact duplicate of your house, and you hired an architect to do the job. But the architect isn’t allowed to see the building she was supposed to duplicate, and you aren’t allowed to make any blueprints or drawings of it: All you can do is describe its dimensions in words. Something like this is the challenge facing the rabbis when they try to imagine the Holy Temple, which stood in Jerusalem for centuries before the Romans destroyed it in 70 C.E. The Amoraim had never seen the structure they were trying to describe. All they had were conflicting reports from a variety of rabbinic sources, which had to be reconciled with each other and with the biblical description of the Temple. It’s no wonder, then, that the accounts of the Temple in Tractate Yoma, which Daf Yomi readers have been exploring this week, are so inconsistent and hard to follow.

Previous Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

UPDATE (8 December): Bad link now fixed. Sorry!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Mingana Collection

SYRIAC WATCH: The University of Birmingham's Mingana Collection website includes some interesting Syriac manuscripts, as well as manuscripts in Arabic and Greek.

(HT Emmanouela Grypeou on Facebook.) More on the Mingana collection here and link.

Oxford, Vatican manuscript project now live

DIGITIZATION: Vatican and Bodleian libraries launch online archive of ancient religious texts. Website funding from Polonsky Foundation includes Bodleian's 1455 Gutenberg Bible and aims to put 1.5m pages online (Maev Kennedy, The Guardian). Excerpt:
The works to be digitised include the small but staggering collection of Greek manuscripts in the Vatican, including ancient texts of works by Homer, Sophocles, Plato and Hippocrates. The Bodleian's collection is much larger – by the end of the 17th century the most important in Britain – but later, mainly of 15th and 16th century manuscripts.

The Vatican's Hebrew texts include the oldest Hebrew codex – a manuscript bound as a book – in existence, and a copy of the entire Bible written in Italy around 1100. The Vatican's collection of 8,900 incunabula – the earliest printed books, many published in Rome – is the fourth largest in the world, followed closely by the Bodleian's.
The project website is here. Note also its Hebrew Manuscripts page, the essay thereon by renowned Hebrew codicologist Malachi Beit-Arié, and the essay by Nigel Wilson on the Greek manuscripts.

Background here, with lots of links about other digitization projects.

Temple Mount graphic

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The most contested real estate on Earth?

Yeah, pretty much.

In the Washington Post Richard Johnson, Gene Thorp, and Bonnie Berkowitz have an interesting and useful graphic about the history of the site.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Deutsch is suing the IAA

THE ISRAEL FORGERY TRIAL BLOWBACK CONTINUES: Deutsch Files $3 Million Suit Against Israel Antiquities Authority (Matthew Kalman, Bible and Interpretation). Excerpt:
[Robert] Deutsch filed suit on 28 November in the Tel Aviv District Court against the Israel Antiquities Authority, its director Shuka Dorfman, the head of its anti-theft unit Amir Ganor, the Jerusalem District Attorney and Assistant District Attorney Dan Bahat who led the prosecution. He is seeking 12 million shekels ($3.4 million) in damages – an astronomical sum for Israel. In an interview, Deutsch said the multi-million-dollar damages demanded were “a drop in the ocean” compared to the wreckage wrought to his reputation and business by the affair. Deutsch was never accused of any involvement with the alleged forgery of either the James Ossuary or Jehoash Tablet, but when those items propelled the sprawling, 18-count indictment sheet into the headlines, as the main co-defendant his name was yoked to the allegations against Golan.

In the verdict delivered in March 2012 and upheld by Israel’s High Court earlier this year, Golan was also acquitted on all counts of forgery while charges against two other defendants were dropped halfway through the trial. Golan and a fifth defendant were convicted on three minor charges of mishandling genuine antiquities. In his verdict, the trial judge, Aharon Farkash, described Deutsch as “an honest and decent businessman, professional and experienced, who has advised many people without demanding any financial return.”
Background on the Israel forgery trial and its aftermath is here with many links.

Iraqi Jewish Archive - new developments


The discoverer of the Iraqi Jewish archive weighs in: Scholar fights to keep Jewish artifacts from returning to Iraq. Harold Rhode's elation at finding the trove during the Iraq war has since turned to outrage that the salvaged texts might go back. (David S. Cloud, L.A. Times).
WASHINGTON — Harold Rhode still recalls the euphoria he felt a decade ago after finding thousands of dripping, moldy artifacts of Iraq's once-vibrant Jewish community in the flooded basement of Saddam Hussein's intelligence service headquarters in Baghdad.

"How do you describe it? An enormous elation, a deep connection, but also shock: Why would this be here?" says the 64-year-old former Pentagon official, an Orthodox Jew who discovered the purloined archive in the bombed-out building days after he arrived in the Iraqi capital with the U.S. invasion force in the spring of 2003.

People who saw him at the time recall that Rhode, a disheveled, rotund scholar of Islamic history, was nearly overcome with emotion as he rescued the waterlogged books, personal papers and sacred texts, including a 400-year-old Hebrew Bible, all of which seemed to be a link to the ancient — and mostly dispersed — Jewish population of Mesopotamia.

But like the arc of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, Rhode's involvement with the Iraqi Jewish archives has progressed from exhilaration to disillusionment and recrimination.

Since he arranged 10 years ago for the collection to be brought to the United States in metal shipping containers, on which he had scrawled "RHODE" and "TORAHS" in big letters, the books and documents have been carefully cleaned of mold and grime, preserved and digitally photographed by experts at the U.S. National Archives.

When summer comes, however, they are to be returned to the Iraqi government, an ending that Rhode likens to giving the personal effects of Jews killed in the Holocaust back to Germany.

At a hearing last month before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, lawmakers grilled Brett H. McGurk, deputy assistant secretary of State.

He affirmed that the U.S. was committed to the "safe and rightful return of these artifacts" but also acknowledged that "we have heard loudly and clearly the concerns" of the Jewish community. "We'll see what we can do."
I hope they do.

I mentioned Harold Rhode in connection with the archive here back in 2004.

Jews expelled from Iraq are also having their say: Tug-of-war erupts over planned return of Jewish archives to Iraq (Sylvia Westall and Jonathan Saul, Reuters). Excerpt:
Edwin Shuker, 58, who escaped to Britain with his family from Baghdad in 1971, said he had discovered his long-abandoned school certificate on display as part of the National Archives exhibition.

"This is more than a school certificate - it is the identity we were forced to leave behind," he told Reuters, likening the document's journey and survival to his own.

"I would like to be reassured that my children and future generations will have unrestricted access to this collection."

Cynthia Kaplan Shamash, from the New York-based World Organisation of Jews from Iraq, said Iraqi Jews were grateful for the restoration but did not want the archive to go back. "Returning the collection to a Jewish-free Iraq in the current conditions is incomprehensible and unacceptable," she said.
Likewise in this article in the National Post: ‘Like sending back art Nazis looted’: Iraqi Jews who fled persecution fight to stop U.S. from returning stolen artifacts to Baghdad (Joe O'Connor). Excerpt:
Finding her old report card in an archive that houses the Declaration of Independence was “kind of cool” for Dr. Bassoon-Zaltzman. But mostly it wasn’t cool. Mostly it made her angry, and sad, and brought back a tide of bad memories from her childhood, from the Iraq of the 1960s where a once vital Iraqi Jewish community lived in fear, never knowing who would be arrested next.

“I really felt violated seeing my report card because I knew the Iraqi secret police had no way of getting it unless they took it from our house,” Dr. Bassoon-Zaltzman says. “All I could think about was somebody being in the house I grew up in and stealing this document and storing it in the basement of the Mukhabarat — the secret police of Saddam Hussein.

“Sending these items back to Iraq now would be like sending art that the Nazis looted from Europe’s Jews back to Germany. But it’s even worse, because I am nobody. I am not famous, and I am still alive, and there is no inherent value to these items. Nobody in Iraq is going to care about looking at documents and photos of Iraqi Jews that they don’t even know and that have no value to them, or the Iraqi government, or anyone — except the people they were stolen from.

“It is my report card.”
Background here with endless links

Hannibal miniseries

PUNIC WATCH: History Developing Hannibal Miniseries Executive Produced by Halle Berry (
History is developing the miniseries "Hannibal" (working title), co-produced by A+E Studios and Red Arrow Entertainment with Academy Award-winning Actress Halle Berry executive producing and Oscar-nominated writer Jeffrey Caine (The Constant Gardener, GoldenEye) penning the script, it was announced today by Dirk Hoogstra, Executive Vice President and General Manager, History & H2. The miniseries will tell the story of the greatest generals in antiquity - Hannibal Barca and his archrival Scipio Africanus - who went head-to-head in the Second Punic War.

This is evidently unrelated to Vin Diesel's longstanding project of a Hannibal movie. I have many other past posts on Hannibal, e.g., here, here, here, here, and here.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Review of Lim, The Formation of the Jewish Canon

MARGINALIA: Edmon L. Gallagher on Timothy H. Lim’s The Formation of the Jewish Canon. Excerpt:
Timothy Lim’s new book The Formation of the Jewish Canon does not seek to provide a comprehensive treatment of canon formation but rather attempts to address select questions with some depth. He thus gives little attention to what we can learn of the Jewish Bible from patristic sources, which scholars such as Gilles Dorival have shown to be valuable for this task. Nevertheless, each of the debatable points listed above receives treatment here. Lim concentrates on the pre-rabbinic sources that illuminate (however faintly) the process by which the main contours of the Jewish canon were established during the period from Ezra in the fifth century BCE to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.
The book was noted earlier as forthcoming here.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Dead Sea Scrolls and Pauline Literature, Christianity in the Lycus Valley

The Dead Sea Scrolls and Pauline Literature

Edited by Jean-Sébastien Rey , Université de Lorraine
The relationships between Pauline literature and the Dead Sea scrolls have fascinated specialists ever since the latter were first discovered. Now that all the Qumran scrolls have been published, it is possible to see more clearly the amplitude and impact of this corpus on first century Judaism. This book offers some syntheses of the results obtained in the last decades, and also opens up new perspectives, by highlighting similarities and indicating possible relationships between these various writings within Mediterranean Judaism. In addition, the authors wish to show how certain traditions spread, evolve and are reconfigured in ancient Judaism as they meet new religious, cultural and social challenges.

Early Christianity in the Lycus Valley

In Early Christianity in the Lycus Valley, Ulrich Huttner explores the way Christians established communities and defined their position within their surroundings from the first to the fifth centuries. He shows that since the time of Paul the apostle, the cities Colossae, Hierapolis and Laodicea allowed Christians to expand and develop in their own way.

Huttner uses a wide variety of sources, not only Christian texts - from Pauline letters to Byzantine hagiographies - but also inscriptions and archeological remains, to reconstruct the religious conflicts as well as cooperation between Christians, Jews and Pagans. The book reveals the importance of local conditions in the development of Early Christianity.