Saturday, December 21, 2013

Review of Norton, Contours in the Text

BOOK REVIEW: Jonathan D. H. Norton. Contours in the Text: Textual Variation in the Writings of Paul, Josephus and the Yahad. Library of New Testament Studies 430; London: T&T Clark, 2011. xiii + 210 pages (PB). ISBN 9780567521996. Reviewed by Garrick V. Allen for Reviews of Biblical and Early Christian Studies. Excerpt:
Overall, Norton interacts with the numerous textual, exegetical, historical, and social issues related to his primary question in a capable manner. The discussion is sophisticated and he is careful to distinguish between concerns that are often conflated in similar studies. Also, his textual acumen and attention to detail are impressive and necessary for a study of this complexity. Norton is also careful to define terms in a way that allows the reader to follow his complex textual reasoning. He is successful in articulating his primary argument and leading his reader through the voluminous textual data that he has accumulated. The coherence of this volume in the face of its complexity is admirable. The most valuable contribution of this volume, however, is Norton’s ability to interact with the textual data while, simultaneously, taking account of the scholarly discussion of Paul’s reuse of scriptural traditions that often minimizes this essential facet.

Review of Lapin, Rabbis as Romans

BOOK REVIEW of Hayim Lapin, Rabbis as Romans: The Rabbinic Movement in Palestine, 100-400 CE, by Nathan Schumer (Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization, YU).

HT the Talmud Blog on Facebook.

Earlier review etc. noted here.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Celebrating a "ginourmas" Talmud manuscript

THE TALMUD BLOG: A Post for the 17th of Tevet (Yitz Landes).
Today’s Hebrew date, the 17th of Tevet, marks the 671st anniversary of the completion of the talmudic section of Munich, Cod. hebr. 95, more commonly referred to as “The Munich Manuscript,” by the scribe R. Shlomo the son of R. Shimshon. ...

Conference on the reception of Philo

CONFERENCE AT YALE UNIVERISITY: Philo's Readers: Affinities, Reception, Transmission and Influence
Philo's Readers: Affinities, Reception, Transmission and Influence" will center around the Jewish philosophical exegete, Philo. A member of the Jewish elite in early Roman Alexandria, Philo explored the meaning of Torah by uniting Second Temple interpretations and traditions with a Greek philosophical orientation. Philo's interpretations, interpretive strategies, and philosophical explanations provide us with a glimpse into ancient Judaism, particularly the world of Alexandria in the first century CE. This conference will situate Philo in his geographical, philosophical, and ideological context, looking for affinities and precursors in other ancient texts. But Philo does not just offer a glimpse into the past. He also provided a framework and a collection of hermeneutical tools that would prove invaluable to future readers. This conference will thus examine Philo's reception and influence, particularly among Jewish and Christian readers.
It takes place on March 30-April 1, 2014. Follow the link for registration information.

Herculaneum in the news

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Unlocking the scrolls of Herculaneum (Robin Banerji, BBC)

A long and very good article on the scrolls recovered from Herculaneum. Much of it is summary rather than anything new, but it is very thorough. It discusses early, largely futile efforts to unroll and read the carbonized scrolls in the 1980s, technological advances that made the ink visible, more recent advances that have made the lettering much clearer, and promising very recent advances that can map the contours of unrolled carbonized "logs" of scroll and that someday may permit non-invasive and non-destructive scanning of the text. Regarding the latter:
Not all of the villa's scrolls have been unrolled though - and because of the damage they suffer in the unwinding process that work has now been halted. Might it be possible to read them by unrolling them not physically, but virtually?

In 2009 two unopened scrolls from Herculaneum belonging to the Institut de France in Paris were placed in a Computerised Tomography (CT) scanner, normally used for medical imaging. The machine, which can distinguish different kinds of bodily tissue and produce a detailed image of a human's internal organs could potentially be used to reveal the internal surfaces of the scroll.

The task proved immensely difficult, because the scrolls were so tightly wound, and creased.

"We were able to unwrap a number of sections from the scroll and flatten them into 2D images - and on those sections you can clearly see the structure of the papyrus: fibers, sand," says Dr Brent Seales, a computer science professor at the University of Kentucky, who led the effort.

But the machine could not distinguish "the chemistry of the ink from the chemistry of the paper," he says. It is unfortunate that ancient ink contains no metal.

Seales is continuing to analyse the data produced by the 2009 scan. He has also begun testing a new way of reading the scrolls, using a beam from a particle accelerator.
There is also good reason to believe that some of the library, perhaps most of it, remains buried and waiting to be recovered.

Some lost works of the minor philosopher Philodemus have been recovered so far (it may have been his "working library") as well as part of a lost composition by the philosopher Epicurus, but there may be a whole Rule of Four-magnitude library of ancient Classical works still buried there.

I suppose it's too much to hope for some Enochic books in Greek as well, but it perhaps seems just possible that a Septuagint manuscript or two might be included.

Past posts on Herculaneum and its scrolls and other relevant things are collected here.

DSD 20.3

A NEW ISSUE OF DEAD SEA DISCOVERIES (20.3) has been published. This is a special issue on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hebrew Bible edited by Mladen Popović and Reinhard Kratz. TOC:
Editorial Note

Authors: Reinhard Kratz ; Mladen Popović
pp.: 347–348 (2)

The Hebrew Bible and/as Second Temple Literature: Methodological Reflections

Author: Andrew Teeter
pp.: 349–377 (29)
The Redaction History of the Sinai Pericope (Exod 19–24) and its Continuation in 4Q158

Author: Christoph Berner
pp.: 378–409 (32)
Torah for “The Age of Wickedness”: The Authority of the Damascus and Serekh Texts in Light of Biblical and Rewritten Traditions*

Author: Molly M. Zahn
pp.: 410–432 (23)
Jeremiah between Destruction and Exile: From Biblical to Post-Biblical Traditions

Author: Ronnie Goldstein
pp.: 433–451 (19)
From the Book of Jeremiah to the Qumranic Apocryphon of Jeremiah

Author: Devorah Dimant
pp.: 452–471 (20)
Attitudes to Gentiles in the Minor Prophets and in Corresponding Pesharim*

Authors: Anselm C. Hagedorn ; Shani Tzoref
Requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Abraham and the Torah

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Which Came First: Abraham and the Patriarchs or Moses and the Torah?A Talmudic problem: Abraham lived before the law was given, so how can his actions be used to interpret the law? Excerpt:
This dual founding creates a number of ambiguities in Judaism, one of which came to the fore in this week’s Daf Yomi reading. To the rabbis of the Talmud, the service of God was defined as the study of Torah. As we have seen much earlier in the Daf Yomi cycle, they imagined even a warrior-king like David as a Torah scholar at heart, and they described his feats of military conquest as feats of learning. Naturally, the rabbis want to think about Abraham, the first Jew, in the same way. But Abraham, by any reckoning, lived many generations before Moses received the Torah. What, then, could Abraham have studied, and how did he know how to live?
The book of Jubilees also deal with this problem for the pre-Mosaic patriarchs and invokes the "heavenly tablets" as part of the solution (e.g., 6:17-18).

Beal (ed.), Illuminating Moses

Illuminating Moses
A History of Reception from Exodus to the Renaissance

Edited by Jane Beal, Colorado Christian University

In Illuminating Moses: A History of Reception, readers discover the roles of Moses from the Exodus to the Renaissance--law-giver, prophet, writer--and their impact on Jewish and Christian cultures as seen in the Hebrew Bible, Patristic writings, Catholic liturgy, Jewish philosophy and midrashim, Anglo-Saxon literature, Scholastics and Thomas Aquinas, Middle English literature, and the Renaissance.

Contributors are Jane Beal, Robert D. Miller II, Tawny Holm, Christopher A. Hall, Luciana Cuppo-Csaki, Haim Kreisel, Rachel S. Mikva, Devorah Schoenfeld, Gernot Wieland, Deborah Goodwin, Franklin T. Harkins, Gail Ivy Berlin, and Brett Foster.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

More Masada revisionism

HAARETZ: No more heroes? Digging deeper into the Masada myth. 50 years after the first archaeological digs, mystery remains: Did any battle happen there at all? (Moshe Gilad). Excerpts:
According to Josephus, 967 people who fled the Romans to Masada committed suicide, choosing to die rather than be taken captive.

There are differences of opinion, however, about exactly what happened on the site overlooking the Dead Sea, and the controversy about what took place some 2,000 years ago still prompts heated debate among academics. Participants at a recent conference held in Jerusalem, Ein Gedi and at Masada itself, to mark the 50th anniversary of the excavations, spoke with movingly about their experiences at the time, which however shed little light on persisting mysteries.
Regarding the question of whether "any battle happened there at all" in the headline, the article says:
There are currently two researchers at the center of the archaeological controversy over Masada – Haim Goldfus and Benny Arubas, who have argued for years that the Masada story has been distorted. Many people, Goldfus maintains, “choose not to look reality in the eye.”

The Masada story as told by Josephus didn’t really happen that way, Goldfus insists, claiming that Josephus himself was in Rome when Masada fell.

“In reality, a different [series of] events took place at Masada, and apparently there was no war there at all,” says Goldfus. “There is no evidence at all at the site of blood being spilled in battle. The famous battery [at a site commonly referred to as the Roman ramp] couldn’t have fulfilled the role attributed to it in breaking through the wall, because it was too narrow and small and couldn’t have been used by the Roman army to position a battering ram. In light of the finds in the area where the [Romans] broke through, we understood that nothing happened there. There are no arrowheads, as one finds at other sites. There is no evidence of fires. The indications are that the battery structure was mostly naturally occurring.

“In addition,” he continues, “there are no mounds from walls that had been destroyed, or other evidence of a battle.”

Goldfus says he has no interest in either dispelling the Masada myth or confirming it. “I am also not claiming that [the Jews at the site] didn’t commit suicide. Maybe it did happen. Perhaps the Romans entered the site in a commando raid, but for 50 years they have been portraying a false picture of a heroic battle that didn’t take place. In reality, other things happened there, and I don’t know what they were.”
There's lots more, so read it all before it goes behind the pay wall.

Earlier posts dealing with post-Yadin revisionist interpretations of Masada etc. are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Monday, December 16, 2013

More on the Sa’adah tombstone

ARAMAIC WATCH: The story of the Sa’adah tombstone is covered in the NYT: Chasing 5th-Century Clues From a Woman’s Tombstone (James Barron). Excerpt:
Dr. Fine recalled their conversation. “He said, ‘This is a Talmudic object, it should be at Yeshiva.’ I said, ‘O.K.’ He said, ‘Do you have any money?’ I said no” — a similar tombstone offered for sale was listed for $2,500 to $3,000 in Israel, Dr. Fine said. “He said, ‘Do you have anything to trade?’ I said no. He said, ‘Why don’t you come out and give a lecture and take it home?’ I did everything I could to convince him that he shouldn’t give it to us. He kept saying, ‘No, no, this is something that should be with you.’ So I went there.”
Another interesting point that had not registered with me before is that the inscription is "sandstone with paint on it." I don't know how common painted tombstones in Jordan from the fifth century are, but this brought to mind the Gabriel Revelation, which is also an inscription, possibly from Jordan, composed with ink on stone, although it is composed in Hebrew rather than Aramaic and (if genuine) it is several centuries older. My impression is that ink-on-stone is quite unusual, so I would interested in knowing more about these late antique tombstones.

And it perhaps does bear repeating that both inscription are unprovenanced.

Background on the Sa’adah tombstone, with photographs, is here.

Minimalism draft-summary

In an article series I am writing, a subset of three articles completed last Nov. 26th might be of interest to some members of PaleoJudaica. These three introduce and attempt a representative sample of methodological developments for writing ancient Israel’s history in the era of biblical minimalism, beginning with 1992 publications.

These article are a “first pass” over the literature in an effort that I hope eventually to develop into an summary overview. Such an overview should define areas of agreement, usually qualified agreement, and the parameters within which the various positions fall. The twenty-four scholars whose works are sampled and summarized come from outside the minimalist camp. Their methodologies permit or promote a positive view of historicity in the Hebrew Bible. I do not necessarily agree with any given scholar whose work I summarize or cite.

Scholars, librarians—and those who, like me, may wish to function as both—occasionally write bibliographic essays and review articles which seek to track directions of movement within a field. I hope that scholars who hold a variety of positions regarding the controversy might profit from the bibliographic essay that is found in this article series.

The Author’s Accepted Manuscripts of all three appear on an open-access web site. Each open-access article has a link to the publisher’s Official Version of Record:

Strengthening Biblical Historicity vis-à-vis Minimalism, 1992-2008, Part 1: Introducing a Bibliographic Essay in Five Parts (November 2010)

Strengthening Biblical Historicity vis-à-vis Minimalism, 1992-2008 and Beyond, Part 2.1: The Literature of Perspective, Critique, and Methodology, First Half (November 2012)

Strengthening Biblical Historicity vis-à-vis Minimalism, 1992-2008 and Beyond, Part 2.2: The Literature of Perspective, Critique, and Methodology, Second Half (November 2013)
Earlier PaleoJudaica mentions of Professor Mykytiuk are here, here, and links.

Modern Syriac colophons

LIV INGEBORG LIED: Colophons delight! There are modern Syriac colophons? Who knew?

Secret Mark

LOREN ROSSEN III: Secret Mark Still Fools People.

UPDATE (17 December): Tony Burke responds at Apocryphicity and offers some corrections: Loren Rosson III: “Secret Mark Still Fools People.”

Sunday, December 15, 2013

McGrath on Vinklat on Mandaean (Mandean)

ARAMAIC WATCH: Unpublished Mandaean Texts (James McGrath, leading to work by Marek Vinklat).

Wold on 4QInstruction

BENJAMIN WOLD (NEH FELLOW): The Mystery of Existence: The Construction of Authority in 4QInstruction (ASOR Blog). Excerpt:
Studies on 4QInstruction have often been shackled by perceptions of particular genres, and yet even after it has been recognized that our categories are in conflict, there has been little done to break away entirely from an approach that is tethered to this beginning point. The book that I am bringing to completion at the end of my time at the Albright Institute is an investigation of 4QInstruction that considers the individual who moved among these genres. My questions relate to how authority is constructed in the document. At stake in the way that we understand the boundaries between “wisdom” and “apocalyptic” are our assessments of ancient Jewish thought and practice and the origins of Christianity.