Saturday, January 11, 2014

Nag Hammadi texts at Early Christian Writings

PETER KIRBY'S USEFUL EARLY CHRISTIAN WRITINGS WEBSITE has been updated to include a lot more texts from the Coptic Gnostic Nag Hammadi Library: Now with More Nag Hammadi.

(HT James McGrath on Facebook.)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Treatise of the Vessels update

THE TREATISE OF THE VESSELS continues to get media attention. The article by Owen Jarus, noted here, has been republished a good many times, including by Yahoo News, Fox News, Discovery, and NBC News.

Also, yesterday I had phone interviews with a couple of journalists about the Treatise and one of these has resulted in an article in the Daily Mail:
King Solomon's treasures revealed: Newly translated Hebrew text lists legendary riches - including the Ark of the Covenant

• 'Treatise of the Vessels’ suggests artefacts were hidden in the Middle East
• Text was meant for entertainment rather than a guide to treasure's location
• Treasures mentioned include musical instruments made of gold, ornaments from the Garden of Eden and various precious religious stones

By Ellie Zolfagharifard

PUBLISHED: 16:41, 9 January 2014 | UPDATED: 17:14, 9 January 2014

A modern-day Indiana Jones has uncovered details about King Solomon's riches in a newly translated Hebrew text.

But treasure hunters may have to wait a bit longer as, unlike the film ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ details about the exact location of these treasures are unclear.

Rather than a guide to lost treasure, the newly translated ‘Treatise of the Vessels’ was a legendary story written in Biblical times that was meant to entertain.

It's a good article, which quotes me correctly and makes the text interesting without distorting the fact that it's just a collection of legends. I think that's the first time I've been called "a modern-day Indiana Jones." Maybe that should go in the masthead.

Payne Smith's Syriac Lexicon

SYRIAC WATCH: "The clergyman and scholar Robert Payne Smith’s Syriac Lexicon was signed up in 1859. Peter Sutcliffe in his 'Informal History' of Oxford University Press says that it was 'thirty-three years in the press and the death of thirty-one compositors' ..." (Are we there yet?, Elizabeth Knowles, OUPblog)

Thursday, January 09, 2014

GJW: test results still not in

MARK GOODACRE: Skepticism about Jesus' Wife Papyrus in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The article in the CHE is behind a subscription paywall now, but Mark excerpts some of it. Bottom line: we're still waiting for the results of those tests on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife fragment and no one seems to know when they will come in. These are the tests that were supposed to take "several weeks, if not months" back in October of 2012. In December of that year, I wrote "I hope this does not deteriorate into an endless round of delays ..."

I'm still hoping.

Background here and links.

Syriac now an official language in Iraq

SYRIAC WATCH: Three more languages recognized officially in Iraq: Turkmen, Syriac and Asuri have been added to the official languages of Iraq (World Bulletin). That's a little progress. The other two are Arabic and Kurdish.

News on the Temple Mount and the Waqf

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Arutz Sheva reports that the Waqf is engaged in unauthorized digging again: Exposed: Waqf Illegally Drilling on Temple Mount. Temple Mount activist catches Waqf officials vandalizing Judaism's holiest site. (Tova Dvorin).
Muslim worshippers don't just have more freedom to pray on the Temple Mount, a recent investigation reveals: they apparently also have permission to drill.

An investigation Monday by Yehuda Glick, Director of the Haliba organization for Jewish freedom on the Temple Mount, caught Waqf officials red-handed in the act of drilling through the ancient stones.

Vandalizing the Mount - Judaism's holiest site and a national landmark for people of all religions - violates the law; when caught in the act on film, the perpetrators quickly tried to conceal their actions.

Regular readers will be aware that there is a long history of this sort of problem. Background here and links.

Also, the Jewish Voice has an article on media responses to the document they have leaked as that classified Comptroller's Report: Media Reacts to JV Exclusive on Secret Temple Mount Report. The story does not seem to have been picked up so far by major international news outlets.

Background here and links.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Treatise of the Vessels interview

THE TREATISE OF THE VESSELS is the subject of a LiveScience article by Owen Jarus in which I am interviewed: Fate of Ark of the Covenant Revealed in Hebrew Text. Not the best title, but the article itself is factually correct and correctly identifies the text as legendary. And there's this:
The study of the treatise is ongoing, and discoveries continue to be made. For instance, in the mid-20th century a copy of it (with some variations) was discovered and recorded in Beirut, Lebanon, at the end of a series of inscribed plates that record the Book of Ezekiel.

Those plates are now at the Yad Ben Zvi Institute in Israel, although the plates containing the treatise itself are now missing. Recent research has revealed, however, these plates were created in Syria at the turn of the 20th century, about 100 years ago, suggesting the treatise was being told in an elaborate way up until relatively modern times.
Before this, the most recent information was that these plaques had been removed from the (traditional) Tomb of Ezekiel in Iraq over a century ago. I would be interested in hearing more about this recent research that suggests otherwise.

I have recently published the first complete English translation of The Treatise of the Vessels (Massekhet Kelim) in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, Volume 1 (TOC here). I have also published an article on it, "Scriptural Exegesis in the Treatise of the Vessels, a Legendary Account of the Hiding of the Temple Treasures," in With Letters of Light, the Festschrift for Rachel Elior.

More on the legends and theories about the Ark of the Covenant here and follow the links. More on The Treatise of the Vessels, the Copper Scroll, and legends and theories about the lost Temple treasures here and here and again follow those links.

BAS archaeological top 10 for 2013

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Top 10 Archaeological Finds in 2013: Take a look at the year's most important Biblical archaeology discoveries.

There is some overlap with Todd Bolen's top ten, noted here, but less than you might expect. It was a busy year.

More on Bible Secrets Revealed

ROBERT CARGILL: Summaries and expanded discussions of Bible Secrets Revealed Episodes 1-4 available at Bible History Daily. The links are in his post.

Also, a while ago Tony Burke posted a review of the third episode: Bible Secrets Revealed Episode 3: The Forbidden Scriptures.

Background here and links.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Update on the More Christian Apocrypha Project

TONY BURKE: More Christian Apocrypha vol. 1: Update. I'm pleased to hear that volume 1 is getting close to completion.

Since he mentions the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project and Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, vol. 1, ordering information for the latter is here and here.

Talmudic halakhah as technology?

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Talmud Pays Little Attention to What Jews Believe, Yet Asks Them To Have Faith. Judaism’s manual of sacred technology prizes holiness over beauty, action over thought, and ritual over belief. Excerpts:
Yet choreography is not quite the right metaphor here, since the goal of the rabbis is not to produce a graceful or beautiful life, but a holy one. So, Jewish observance can also be likened to a technology—a series of tools that, if used correctly, will produce the desired result, which is to please God and win his blessing. The Talmud, then, would be a manual of sacred technology, showing how to calibrate every prayer, ritual, and action so that it will be most effective. Fundamental to this idea is that the Jewish God is not content with pious thoughts but demands the necessary sequence of actions—just as an airplane won’t fly unless the pilot turns on the engine, even if everyone on board wishes it up into the air.
Interesting metaphor.
Nothing could be more important to the rabbis than to get it right. Yet the Talmud was compiled centuries after the Temple was destroyed, and as every page of Yoma attests, they had no certain knowledge of what went on there, or even of how the building was laid out. They were forced to bring together a rabbinic tradition here and a biblical description there, supplemented by a great deal of logical deduction and simple guesswork. What this means is that even the simplest action of the high priest becomes, in the Talmud, the occasion for extremely complicated debates.
Again, some earlier posts on that absent Ark of the Covenant are noted here.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Top Bible/ancient Israel & archaeology stories of 2013

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG reviews its Top Stories of 2013 and More Top Stories of 2013. Good stuff.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Elad's visitor center

HAARETZ: Legal challenges mounted against planned visitor center in East Jerusalem. Proponents say it will bring much-needed development to Arab neighborhood, while critics argue plan could hurt residents, alter city's character and ignite religious tensions (Nir Hasson). Excerpts:
The complex will include an entire floor to display antiquities from the City of David digs, including some of the most ancient Jewish artifacts unearthed in Jerusalem. It will come complete with classrooms, exhibition halls, an auditorium, a gift shop, a restaurant and a 250-car garage. The structure will provide access to the ancient underground street dating the time of King Herod that runs between the City of David and the Western Wall plaza .

Opponents of the plan, including architects, archaeologists, writers, academics and public figures, say that the project would alter cityscape – and character – around the iconic Old City walls. They are also wary of Elad's involvement in the project. The organization already administers the dig, though under the mandate of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. The opponents say a private entity should not be handed the reins when an archaeological site of supreme scientific importance hangs in the balance.


Elad is reviewing the objections and has yet to respond and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority says project will not harm the archaeological remains lying underneath.

“The Israel Antiquities Authority has been digging at the site for more than eight years in order to understand and carry out archaeological research [and] to enable the building to be integrated with the antiquities," the parks authority said in a statement. "The building was planned in a manner that fully relates to archaeological finds discovered [there]. In addition, the plan for the building particularly and meticulously relates to the Old City walls so as not to harm the landscape’s sight lines and the majesty of the Old City walls. The building does not rise more than one story higher than the road separating the building and the [Old City] walls.”
Much background on Elad and its involvement with archaeology is here and links.

Ezekiel's bread

YES, DO SKIP THE HUMAN DUNG: Ancient Hebrew recipe you could make today: Ezekiel's bread. But you may want to leave out one ingredient God commanded Ezekiel to use, to remember that exile is foul (Miriam Feinberg Vamosh, Haaretz).

The story in Ezekiel 4 is an acted-out oracle describing how awful the siege of Jerusalem will be: there will be so little grain that people will have to consolidate all they have just to make up a loaf of bread. And the animals will already have been eaten, so there won't be any animal dung to use for a cooking fire. This bread is not meant as a health food.

Ghostly inverted Talmud

OOPS! BBC's upside-down Talmud

M. R. James, who is also well known for his work on biblical apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, wrote some excellent ghost stories, and the BBC adaptations are usually pretty good. But it sounds like they messed up on this one.