Saturday, July 26, 2014

The ANE and psychotropic drugs

ASOR BLOG: Psychedelics and the Ancient Near East (Diana L. Stein).
As courts today debate whether to legalize or regulate the use of drugs like cannabis, it is interesting to look at the history of man’s relationship with mind-altering substances.Several books, exhibits and catalogues have recently explored the topic. Yet, despite the consensus that “every society on earth is a high society,” the Ancient Near East is omitted from these surveys. Is it too remote? Do we know so little? Was it unique? The evidence suggests otherwise.


The Coinage of Carthage

PUNIC WATCH: The Coinage of Carthage (Mike Markowitz, CoinWeek).
Most of what we know about Carthaginians was written by their enemies–first the Greeks, then the Romans. They are described as greedy, treacherous and brutal. Yet even Cicero, a Roman politician born 40 years after Carthage was wiped out, grudgingly admitted that “Carthage would never have held an empire for six hundred years had it not been governed with wisdom and statesmanship.”

None of its literature, and very little of its art, architecture or material culture survives.

But we have the coins.

The article puts the coinage into a nice capsule history of Carthage.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hurtado on Wright on Paul

LARRY HURTADO: Review of Wright Published. An early review of my St Andrews colleague N. T. Wright's magnum opus, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (SPCK, 2013).

Brill books

Women in the Bible, Qumran and Early Rabbinic Literature
Their Status and Roles

Paul Heger

Women in the Bible, Qumran and Early Rabbinic Literature: Their Status and Roles portrays the tension between the unity of husband and wife and their different legal and social status from a wide range of perspectives, as deduced from the texts of the three corpora. The volume discusses the related topics of divorce, polygamy, woman’s obligations to fulfill precepts, membership in the community, genealogy and attitudes toward sex, such as rejection of asceticism. Women in the Bible, Qumran and Early Rabbinic Literature begins with an objective interpretation of the biblical narratives of the Creation and the Fall, the intellectual basis of Jewish attitudes toward women, and then analyzes the divergent interpretations of Qumran and the Rabbis, the grounds of their distinct doctrines and halakhot.

The Cave 4 Apocryphon of Jeremiah and the Qumran Jeremianic Traditions
Prophetic Persona and the Construction of Community Identity

Kipp Davis

The Cave 4 Apocryphon of Jeremiah C from Qumran survives in several copies, and presents significant links between the prophet Jeremiah, the scriptural book of Jeremiah, and the collectors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Because the prophet is only occasionally named in the Scrolls, and there are only a few clear instances where the book is cited, Jeremiah appears to have had a limited impact on the imagination of the Qumranites. However, through a careful appraisal of the Apocryphon manuscripts, and a reconsideration of Jeremiah's influence in the Dead Sea Scrolls via his reputational authority, this study shows that clusters of traditions were tied to Jeremiah’s prophetic and priestly distinction, with an emphasis on matters of leadership and empire.

Psalmen oder Psalter?
Materielle Rekonstruktion und inhaltliche Untersuchung der Psalmenhandschriften aus der Wüste Juda

Eva Jain

Psalms or Psalter? This study creates a new, solid foundation for discussions on the psalm manuscripts found in the Judean Desert. A variety of explanatory models, statistics and synthetic hypotheses have already been produced in the course of numerous analyses and interpretations. However, the disparate and fragmentary character of the manuscripts has barely received any attention since the main focus has mostly been on discussions of the content. For the first time, the entire preserved fragment material of the psalm manuscripts from the Judean Desert is here being presented and edited as a whole. In this way, it can be defined and analyzed in future studies.
New ways of exploring the contents will particularly result with regard to the best preserved psalm roll, 11QPs a.

Psalmen oder Psalter? Die vorliegende Studie schafft eine neue, tragfähigere Basis für die Auseinandersetzung um die Psalmenhandschriften aus der Wüste Juda. Im Rahmen zahlreicher Analysen und Interpretationen wurden schon vielfältige Erklärungsmodelle, Statistiken und Gesamthypothesen zu den Psalmenhandschriften geliefert. Da das Hauptaugenmerk der meisten Untersuchungen bislang auf der inhaltlichen Auseinandersetzung lag, wurde der disparate und fragmentarische Charakter der Manuskripte kaum berücksichtigt.
Erstmals wird nun das gesamte erhaltene Fragmentenmaterial der Psalmenhandschriften aus der Wüste Juda umfassend dargestellt und aufbereitet. Auf diese Weise lässt es sich definieren und für weitere Untersuchungen auswerten.
Gerade in Hinsicht auf die besterhaltene Psalmenrolle 11QPs a ergeben sich so ganz neue Wege zur Erschließung der Handschrift.
And a couple other of tangential interest to ancient Judaism but which I find interesting for one reason or another:
Codex Schøyen 2650: A Middle Egyptian Coptic Witness to the Early Greek Text of Matthew's Gospel
A Study in Translation Theory, Indigenous Coptic, and New Testament Textual Criticism

James M. Leonard, Louisiana State University and Loyola University New Orleans

In 2001, the exciting but enigmatic 4th century Coptic Matthew text, Codex Schøyen, was introduced as an alternative, non-canonical Matthew. In this book, James M. Leonard refutes these sensational claims through fresh methodological approaches and easily accessible analysis. Leonard reveals that the underlying Greek text is one of great quality, and that Codex Schøyen can contribute to the identification of the earliest attainable text—but only with due concern for translational interference. Leonard shows how Codex Schøyen’s close alliance with Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus allows triangulation of the three to help identify an earlier text form which they mutually reflect, and how this impacts a dozen variant passages in Matthew.

Dark Enlightenment
The Historical, Sociological, and Discursive Contexts of Contemporary Esoteric Magic

By Kennet Granholm (Stockholm University, Sweden)

In Dark Enlightenment Kennet Granholm explores the historical, sociological, and discursive contexts of contemporary esoteric magic. The book is focused on the Sweden-originated Left-Hand Path magic order Dragon Rouge in particular, but through a detailed contextualizing examination of this case study it offers a broader visage of contemporary esotericism in general. The author takes cue from both the historiography of Western esotericism and the sociological study of new religions and religious change, aiming to provide a transdisciplinary framework for a comprehensive study of esotericism in late modernity.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review of Jones, Between Pagan and Christian

BOOK REVIEW: Between Pagan and Christian, by Christopher P. Jones, by Candida Moss in the Times Higher. Excerpt:
This is important subject matter and a worthwhile read, and Jones is peerless in his discussions of the 4th century and beyond. For those interested in details as well as broad strokes, he is just the man to show us exactly how fuzzy the notion of paganism was in the ancient world. Engaging anecdotes - for instance about the conversion of various ancient figures - punctuate a book replete with linguistic definitions.

But when he refers to the world before Constantine, Jones’ erudition and constructivist interests seem to slip. Not only are the facts of the 1st century idealistically borrowed from traditional ecclesial histories and the Acts of the Apostles, his interests in historical constructivism evaporate. ...

Iraqi Christians expelled from Mosul

ARAMAIC WATCH: Purged by ISIS, Iraq's Christians appeal to world for help (Fox).
Iraqi Christians are begging for help from the civilized world after Mosul, the northern city where they have lived and worshiped for 2,000 years, was purged of non-Muslims by ISIS, the jihadist terror group that claims to have established its own nation in the region.

Assyrian Christians, including Chaldean and Syriac Catholics, Syriac Orthodox and followers of the Assyrian Church of the East have roots in present day Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran that stretch back to the time of Jesus Christ. While they have long been a minority and have faced persecution in the past, they had never been driven completely from their homes as has happened in Mosul under ISIS. When the terror group ordered all to convert to Islam, pay a religious tax or face execution, many chose another option: flight.


Mosul is home to some of the most ancient Christian communities, but the number of Christians has dwindled since 2003. On Sunday, militants seized the 1,800-year old Mar Behnam Monastery, about 15 miles south of Mosul. The resident clergymen left to the nearby city of Qaraqoush, according to local residents.

The BBC has a story about the monastery: Isis militants 'seize Iraq monastery and expel monks'.

Background on Mosul and on related issues in the Middle East is here and links.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Talmud on the Book of Esther

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Is the Book of Esther—a Story Told In Human Terms, Not Miracles—a Holy Book? Talmudic rabbis, like us, can only study the course of history for the elusive signs of God’s intentions.
This week, Daf Yomi readers began a new tractate, Megilla, which deals with the holiday of Purim—the day on which we read the Megilla or Scroll of Esther. And in Megillat 7a, we learned a surprising fact about that scroll: “Rav Yehuda said that Shmuel said: The book of Esther does not render the hands ritually impure.” All the other books of the Bible transmit tumah, ritual impurity, to those who touch them: As the Koren Talmud explains, the sages instituted this rule in order to discourage people from handling the biblical books too casually. Why doesn’t the Book of Esther follow this pattern? “Is this to say,” the Gemara asks, “that Shmuel maintains that the book of Esther was not stated with the inspiration of the Divine Spirit?”

The rabbis went to quite a lot of effort to find God in the various lucky breaks in the book. The Book of Esther continues to get attention today, especially in international political contexts. See here and links. And yes, that link happens to be the post immediately after the one linked to in the post I just put up, and that's how I noticed it. Coincidence? Do you really think so?

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Canine Aramaic?

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Talking to a dog in Aramaic (Adam McCollum).

As good as pirate Aramaic.

SBL program book

THE SOCIETY OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE has posted a searchable Preliminary Program Book for its upcoming annual meeting in San Diego on 22-25 November. I'm in the following session:
Mysticism, Esotericism, and Gnosticism in Antiquity
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
500 (Level 5 (Cobalt)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB)

Theme: Early Judaism
Featuring reviews of James Davila, Hekhalot Literature in Translation: Major Texts of Merkavah Mysticism (Brill, 2013)

M. David Litwa, University of Virginia, Presiding
Ra'anan Boustan, University of California-Los Angeles
Review of James Davila, Hekhalot Literature in Translation (20 min)
Rebecca Lesses, Ithaca College
Review of James Davila, Hekhalot Literature in Translation (20 min)
James Davila, University of St. Andrews, Respondent (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Ryan E. Stokes, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Reconsidering the Assumption of Moses (25 min)
Tom Hull, Monash University-Victoria Australia
Honest to God: Truth, theodicy and the heavenly law court in 3 Enoch (25 min)
INCHOL YANG, Claremont Lincoln University
The Influence of Ezek. 40-48 on 1Enoch 14:8-25 (25 min)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

More on the third Huqoq mosaic

ELEPHANTS: Mystery Mosaic Discovered in Ancient Galilee Synagogue (Menachem Wecker, The Forward). Excerpt:
Although Zodiac signs are portrayed at the 6th-century Beit Alpha synagogue (Israel), [excavator Jodi] Magness stresses that the third Huqoq mosaic is the first non-biblical narrative in a synagogue, even though non-biblical imagery exists. “Helios and the zodiac cycle is not a story or narrative,” she says. “The other stories depicted in ancient synagogues (including at Dura Europos) are all taken from the Hebrew Bible.”

Given the dearth of elephants in the Hebrew bible, identifying the figures in the mosaic is difficult. Magness is quoted in the UNC release saying that battle elephants are associated with Alexander the Great and subsequent Greek armies. The depiction, she writes, could refer to the legend that Alexander met the Jewish high priest. Asked if the elephants (and lit oil lamps in the second register) could suggest the Hanukkah story and the Maccabean revolt, Magness said she and her colleagues had speculated about a Maccabean interpretation last year, but the newly uncovered mosaics defy that identification.
Background here and links.

No jail yet for Golb

RAPHAEL GOLB: Appeal of Conviction Delays Jail in Internet Forgery Case (AP).

Background on the Golb Dead-Sea-Scrolls internet-impersonation case is here and links.

Hobby Lobby museum

TO HOUSE THE GREEN COLLECTION: Bible museum planned for US capital (AFP).

Monday, July 21, 2014

Zoharic Aramaic website

The Aramaic Language of the Zohar: Resources for studying Kabbalah in the original language.
This site will provide resources for people interested in reading the Zohar, the text at the heart of the Jewish mystical tradition, in its original language, or who are interested in the Aramaic language more generally. It is part of a larger project by Judy Barrett and Justin Jaron Lewis, who are working on a beginner’s textbook and a practical dictionary of the Aramaic of the Zohar.
A few years ago I noted a course on Zoharic Aramaic, taught by Justin Jaron Lewis at the University of Manitoba. And recently Judy Barrett alerted us to Daniel Matt's online Zohar Dictionary. Background on Matt's Aramaic edition and English translation of the Zohar is also at that link.

Ronald Youngblood, 1931-2014

SAD NEWS: RONALD YOUNGBLOOD, WORKED ON TRANSLATION OF BIBLE (Christine Huard, San Diego U-T). Professor Ronald Youngblood died earlier this month at the age of 82 in San Diego, my home town. He is best known for his work on the New International Version of the Bible. I first met Ron in 1982, shortly after he had moved to Bethel Seminary West. I was a Master's student at UCLA looking to an academic career in Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies and he graciously met with me a number of times to offer advice. He was a good guy. Requiescat in pace.

(Via the Agade List.)

Panel on Jewish and Talmudic medicine

H-JUDAIC: „Jewish Medicine“: One-day panel at Xth EAJS-Congress, Paris, 24.7.2014.

Evil lectures

BIBLICAL STUDIES ONLINE: Evil in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity.
Videos are available of some of the speakers at the Evil in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity conference, St Mary’s College, Twickenham, May 23-24, 2014.
Background here.

For what it's worth, let me encourage anyone who posts a lecture or podcast online to also post a transcript. Perhaps I'm a dinosaur, but I rarely sit through lengthy video or audio presentations. I haven't the time and I don't see the point of listening to something that I could read much more quickly, and I doubt that I'm alone in feeling this way. But I do read online papers and transcribed podcasts. So if you are presenting from a written text, posting the written form as well could enlarge your audience.

The Septuagint Sessions

REMINDER: Timothy Michael is doing a series of podcasts on the Septuagint. He is currently up to number eight. The RSS feed is here.

Noted earlier here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Studia Philonica Annual

WEBSITE: Philo of Alexandria - Studia Philonica Annual. It's been many years since I linked to the website of this important journal, so here it is again.