Saturday, February 15, 2014

The label "magic" in antiquity

SARAH VEALE: On the Arbitrary Appellation of Magic in Antiquity – "what is labelled magic is a moving target" (Invocatio).

New Jewish Babylonian Aramaic grammar

NEW BOOK: Elitzur A. Bar-Asher Siegal, Introduction to the Grammar of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic (Lehrb├╝cher orientalischer Sprachen - LOS III / 3, 2013).
The dialect spoken and written by the Jews of Babylonia from the third century CE onwards is known as "Jewish Babylonian Aramaic". This is the first comprehensive description of this dialect since Levias' "Grammar of Babylonian Aramaic" of 1930. The current book offers a thorough reexamination of the grammar on the basis of a large corpus in its manuscript witnesses. It not only synthesizes the results of recent scholarship but introduces original insights on many important questions. The book is designed to appeal to readers of all backgrounds, including those with no prior background in Babylonian Aramaic or the Babylonian Talmud. The discussion frequently makes reference to parallels in other Semitic languages and in other Aramaic dialects, as well as to a variety of topics in linguistics . The book is structured as a textbook: it introduces topics in an order determined by pedagogical considerations, and offers vocabulary notes and translation exercises at the end. At the same time, the book can be used as a reference grammar.
(Via the Talmud Blog on Facebook. Cross-file under "Aramaic Watch.")

Friday, February 14, 2014

Harkins coming to Birmingham

CHARLOTTE HEMPEL posts the following on the SOTS Facebook page:

Dr. Angela Kim Harkins, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT, USA, has been awarded a Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship (IIF) from the 7th Framework Programme for Research funded by the European Commission for 24 months of continuous research at the total sum of 309,000 Euros. Dr. Harkins will conduct research at the University of Birmingham in collaboration with Dr. Charlotte Hempel on a project entitled, “The Teacher of Righteousness and Religious Experience in the Dead Sea Scrolls.” The proposed project is an interdisciplinary and comprehensive assessment of the evidence for the figure known as the ‘Teacher of Righteousness’ in the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered at Khirbet Qumran. Dr. Harkins will use integrative approaches to understanding the body and its experiences, with special attention to how the instrumentalization of emotions can shed light on the experience of religion during this time. While emotion’s role in the construction and reconstruction of memory has long been acknowledged, this study examines how the strategic arousal of affect generated by texts that mention the Teacher of Righteousness serves to reinvigorate and intensify his memory among his followers.

Marie Curie Incoming International Fellowships (IIF) are individual fellowships that aim to attract top-class researchers from outside Europe to undertake innovative research in Europe from 1 to 2 years (incoming phase), with a view to developing mutually-beneficial research co-operation. Proposals from all areas of scientific and technological research of interest to the European Community are accepted and there are no pre-defined priority areas.
This is excellent news. Congratulations to Dr. Harkins, to the University of Birmingham, and to Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship on this side of the pond.

Iraqi Jewish Archive - some progress?

UNANIMOUS SENATE RESOLUTION: Senate bids to save ancient Iraqi Jewish archive. Time is running out for State Dept. to renegotiate the status of the massive collection before it’s returned to Iraq in June (Rebecca Shimoni Stoil, Times of Israel).
The resolution “strongly urges the Department of State to renegotiate with the Government of Iraq the provisions of the original agreement that was signed between the National Archives and Records Administration and the Coalition Provisional Authority in order to ensure that the Iraqi Jewish Archive be kept in a place where its long-term preservation and care can be guaranteed.”

It also implies that the archives, now in the US, should not be returned to Iraq, stipulating that “the Iraqi Jewish Archive should be housed in a location that is accessible to scholars and to Iraqi Jews and their descendants who have a personal interest in it.” Only a handful of Jews remain in Iraq, and their descendants are scattered across the world, with large numbers living in Israel and the United States.
Renegotiation sounds good to me. I could get behind that. But the question is whether the State Department and Iraq can. Stay tuned ...

Background here and links.

Happy Valentine's Day!

PALEOJUDAIC EROTICA: Ancient Jewish Aphrodisiacs Can Spice Up Valentine’s Day—or Any Shabbat Dinner. Whatever holiday you’re celebrating, put romance on the menu by taking some advice from everyone from Maimonides to Dr. Ruth (Merissa Nathan Gerson in Tablet).

Should unprovenanced cuneiform tablets be published?

ASOR BLOG: Cuneiform Exceptionalism: An Argument for Studying and Publishing Unprovenanced Tablets (Jerrold S. Cooper).

I don't have a great deal at stake in this particular debate, but I find Professor Cooper's arguments pretty persuasive. I have taken a similar position about certain types of antiquities here (see my point (3) in my comments under the quote of Larry Stager) and my arguments would apply likewise to cuneiform texts. A follow-up post to that one is here. Additional relevant comments are here and links. In the case of Northwest Semitic inscriptions, unprovenanced texts should be regarded as fake until shown convincingly to be otherwise.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Lexam English Septuagint

BRIAN W. DAVIDSON: Interview with Two Editors of the Lexham English Septuagint
Rick Brannan and Ken Penner were kind enough to sit down and talk with me about a recently published English translation of the LXX, the Lexham English Septuagint (LES). I shared an early draft of these questions with a few friends who are involved in Septuagint studies, and couple of them had questions of their own. I have included these below.
The machines still need us. For now.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A little-known Syriac fragment of 4 Ezra

LIV INGEBORG LIED: Recycling 4 Ezra: 4 Ezra 8:33-41a and 41c-48 in the covers of an Arabic codex. The codex is written in Arabic, but the papyrus fragment of 4 Ezra was incorporated as part of the codex cover and is in Syriac.

UPDATE: I have collected a lot of background information on 4 Ezra and related texts here, and note also here.

Coming back to Talmud

ONE MAN'S ODYSSEY: Reading David Foster Wallace Led Me Back to Studying the Talmud. The late author’s work was Talmudic in nature. That’s why his books made me miss the Jewish texts I’d left behind (Joseph Winkler in Tablet).
After a torrid and heady five-year relationship with Talmud, first in yeshiva in Israel then at Yeshiva University, I had given up the Talmud and left Orthodoxy about three years before the event. But speaking about Wallace, I suddenly realized that I couldn’t really ever leave the rigors, pains, and joys of a Talmudic mindset. It marked me for life.
(HT reader Yehoshua Rabinowitz.)

When is a sukkah not a sukkah?

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: How Large Must a Sukkah Be To Be Called a Sukkah—And Yet Still Be Far From Heaven? In dissenting opinions, Talmudic rabbis propose and debate every detail of Sukkot’s booth and, in so doing, measure God

Unusually, a Talmudic sage appeals to the praxis of a woman to decide the halakhah. Plus, why Elijah didn't really ascend to heaven.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

News on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife

LARRY HURTADO: “Jesus’ Wife” Fragment: Latest Developments.

Maybe we're finally getting somewhere with the GJW.

Background here and links.

UPDATE (12 February): Rumors are flying that the ink has tested as ancient. If so, that will be interesting, although the various literary problems with the text need to be addressed as well. But in any case it will very encouraging to have one of these controversial texts being published properly in a peer-review journal.

JSIJ: Brody, "Petoterot and Benot Shuah"

JEWISH STUDIES, AN INTERNET JOURNAL has published a new article: Robert Brody, "Petoterot and Benot Shuah." Click on the latter link to download the article as a pdf file. Abstract:
This article discusses Mishnah Avodah Zarah 1:5, which lists items which Jews are forbidden to sell to pagans, apparently because they were likely to be used in idolatrous worship. These include pine cones "and/with their petoterot" and benot shuah; "and" is the reading of the so-called Babylonian manuscripts of the Mishnah while "with" is the reading of the so-called Palestinian manuscripts. The author argues that "and" is the more original reading and that the traditional understanding of petoterot as stalks is correct. He further contends that Lieberman's identification of benot shuah needs to be corrected slightly: this term should be understood as referring specifically to the fruit of a certain variety of pine tree and not to the tree itself, which was called simply shuah.

The Digital Loeb Classical Library®

HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS: Forthcoming in Fall 2014: The Digital Loeb Classical Library®.
The Loeb Classical Library®, founded by James Loeb in 1911, has from the very beginning fostered its stated mission to make classical Greek and Latin literature accessible to the broadest range of readers. The digital Loeb Classical library extends this mission for readers of the twenty-first century. Harvard University Press is honored to renew James Loeb’s vision of accessibility and with the introduction of the digital Loeb Classical Library presents an interconnected, fully searchable, perpetually growing, virtual library of all that is important in Greek and Latin literature. Epic and lyric poetry; tragedy and comedy; history, philosophy, and oratory; the great medical writers and mathematicians; those Church fathers who made particular use of the Classics—in short, our entire Greek and Latin Classical heritage is represented here with up-to-date texts and accurate and literate English translations. 523 volumes of fully searchable Latin, Greek, and English texts are available in a modern and elegant interface, allowing readers to browse, search, bookmark, annotate, and share content with ease.
Follow the link for a video and more information.

This might not be the most tactful time to bring this up, but many of the Loeb volumes are out of copyright and are available for free as digital scans. But this new version is much spiffier and has better features.

Other past posts on the LCL are here and here.

Monday, February 10, 2014

An Iraqi Jew on the Iraqi Jewish Archive

THE FORWARD: Send Iraqi Jewish Archive Back Where It Belongs. Priceless Trove Will Serve Vital Educational Role in Baghdad. Sigal Samuel's core arguments are here:
The three main arguments for keeping the trove here go something like this. First, Iraq stole these artifacts from the Jews; that makes these Jews (or their descendants) their rightful owners. Second, Iraq persecuted its Jews to the point of extinction; why should they get to keep our things? Third, nowadays only about five Jews remain in Iraq, a country that most of world Jewry cannot easily visit; shouldn’t the artifacts be kept someplace accessible?

My response? No, no and no.

However much we as Iraqi Jews may resent having had this property stolen from us (and believe me, I’m not pleased about it), the only reason we’re seeing it now is because the State Department got it out of Iraq by promising, ultimately, to send it back there. There’s a word for people who take stuff, promise to return it, and then don’t. It’s called stealing.

It’s also called cultural imperialism. Hauling these precious artifacts out of Iraq and into an American gallery brings to mind the Egyptian artifacts that were taken out of their native country to fill the display halls of the British Museum. After all that the U.S. forces did in Iraq — including creating the unstable conditions that led to the plundering of that country’s National Museum in 2003 — we should blush at the thought of expropriating this archive for our own museums.
This is a difficult one. In practical terms, the most important consideration is what the State Department decides to do with the archive. It has the power to do pretty much what it wants. A closely related issue is, of course, international law, on which I am not qualified to comment.

In moral terms, the following considerations seem to me to be the most important (your mileage may vary).

1. Personal effects, such as report cards, should be returned to living owners or the immediate families of dead ones, if they want them.

2. Centuries-old Torah and Talmud manuscripts and the like should be kept wherever they are safest and they should be available for scholars to study. I am not sure Iraq is the best place for either desideratum. They are the heritage of humanity, not just of Iraq and not just of Jews, although if specific owners can be established, I suppose they would have a claim on them too, as per point 1 above.

3. The claim of Iraq to the archive is tenuous at best. If the manuscripts had been looted from a museum, there would be a much stronger case for their return to that museum. (Parallel case here.) They were not. They were recovered from the offices of the Iraqi secret police, who looted them from Jews who were expelled from Iraq. The analogy of returning art stolen by Nazis to Germany has some force to it. And this is not the best time to bring up Egyptian artifacts.

4. It's generally a good idea for the State Department to keep its promises or, if not, to have a compelling reason for breaking them.

Whether all that adds up to a solution, I leave up to you. I blog, you decide.

Follow the link to this most recent post on the Iraqi Jewish archive, which has links leading back to 2003.

Schachter on Talmudic layout

THE TALMUD BLOG: The Flow of Things: Ruminations on Talmudic Layout (Ben Schachter).
In celebration of The Talmud Blog’s redesign, I have been invited to offer some observations on the layout of the Talmud inspired by my background as a practitioner and scholar of the visual arts. This is a double honor for me as this is also my inaugural post. Thank you for the invitation.

Seland, Why Read Philo?

FORTHCOMING BOOK: Why Read Philo? And How! Handbook to Philo of Alexandria, Torrey Seland (Eerdmans).
Guidebook par excellence to a significant ancient Jewish scholar

A contemporary of both Jesus and the apostle Paul, Philo was a prolific Jewish theologian, philosopher, and politician — a fascinating, somewhat enigmatic figure — who lived his entire life in Alexandria, Egypt. His many books are important sources for our understanding of ancient Judaism, early Christianity, and the philosophical currents of that time.

Why Read Philo? And How! is an excellent introductory guide to Philo's work and significance. The contributors — all well-known experts on Philo of Alexandria — discuss Philo in context, offer methodological considerations (how best to study Philo), and explore Philo's ongoing relevance and value (why reading him is important). This practical volume will be an indispensable resource for anyone delving into Philo and his world.
Due out in the Autumn. Cross-file under "Asking the Important Questions."

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Daniel J. Harrington, S. J., 1940-2014

The rector of Faber Jesuit Community at Boston College announced this evening [Friday] that Dan Harrington, S.J., passed away at 6:30 pm Friday evening.

The wake will be at 5:00 pm on Wednesday, February 12, at St. Ignatius Church, 28 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467. The funeral will follow the wake at 7:00 pm.

Daniel Harrington (1940-2014) was one of the most distinguished specialist in Second Temple Judaism, author of numerous books and articles.

May his memory be for a blessing / Requiescat in pace.

Jack Sasson also links to Fr. Harrington's Wikipedia page here and his Boston College page here. Not mentioned in any of the above is his extensive, important work on Pseudo-Philo's Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum (Biblical Antiquities), for example, here, here, and here.

2014 Gorgias book grant

Welcome to the Gorgias Book Grant Program

As part of our efforts to provide resources to graduate students in the humanities, Gorgias Press is announcing its annual book grant. Every year, Gorgias chooses two graduate students for its Gorgias Book Grant, an award of $500 worth of Gorgias titles (each) to outstanding students in their fields.

2014-2015 Grant Field: Any field within the scope of Gorgias Publications
Application Deadline March 1, 2014
Grant Date March 31, 2014
Follow the link for application details