Saturday, October 25, 2014

Muchnik, The Gender Challenge of Hebrew

The Gender Challenge of Hebrew

Malka Muchnik, Bar-Ilan University

The Gender Challenge of Hebrew is the first book to delve in depth into the problem of gender representation over the 3,000-year history of the Hebrew language. By analyzing and illustrating the grammatical characteristics of gender in Biblical, Mishnaic, Medieval and Modern Hebrew, Malka Muchnik reveals the social and cultural issues that they reflect.

Gender discrimination in all periods of Hebrew is shown in sacred, liturgical and literary texts, as well as in the popular language spoken today. All of them testify to the problematic status of women, who were traditionally excluded from religious studies and public activities, and in recent decades have been struggling to change this practice. Malka Muchnik shows that linguistic change remains a challenging goal.

Friday, October 24, 2014

New books on ancient Greek


First, from Brill:
Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Language and Linguistics (3 vols)

General Editor: Georgios K. Giannakis (Thessaloniki)

The Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Language and Linguistics (EAGLL) brings together the latest research from across a range of disciplines contributing to our knowledge of Ancient Greek. The EAGLL offers a systematic and comprehensive treatment of all aspects of the history and study of Ancient Greek, comprising detailed descriptions of the language from Proto-Greek to koine. It addresses linguistic aspects from several perspectives, including history, structure, individual singularities, biographical references, schools of thought, technical meta-language, sociolinguistic issues, dialects, didactics, translation practices, generic issues, Greek in relation to other languages, etc., and on all levels of analysis including phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, lexicon, semantics, stylistics, etc. It also includes all the necessary background information regarding the roots of Greek in Indo-European. As and when, excursions may be made to later stages of the language, e.g. Byzantine or even later. The focus, however, will predominantly be Ancient Greek. With well over 500 entries on all aspects of Ancient Greek, this new encyclopedia is the authoritative reference work for students and researchers of Ancient Greek, general linguistics, Indo-European languages, and Biblical literature.
And here's one from Eisenbrauns:
No Stone Unturned

No Stone Unturned
Greek Inscriptions and Septuagint Vocabulary
Critical Studies in the Hebrew Bible - CSHB 5
by James K. Aitken
Eisenbrauns, 2014
xiv + 140 pp., English
ISBN: 9781575063249
List Price: $28.95
Your Price: $26.06

For understanding biblical Greek in context, the importance of the discoveries of papyri was recognized early in the twentieth century, while inscriptions by comparison were left unexplored. Those scholars who had intended to turn their attention to the inscriptions were delayed by their work on the papyri and by the conviction that the greater results would come from these. As a result, undue focus has been placed on papyri, and biblical Greek words have been viewed only through their lens, leading to the inference that the Greek is specifically Egyptian and vernacular. This volume widens the focus on Septuagint words by demonstrating how the inscriptions, coming from a broader geographical region than papyri and containing a wider range of registers, are a source that should not remain untouched.

This work explains the current state of the study of Septuagint vocabulary and outlines the competing roles of papyri and inscriptions in its interpretation, including the limitations of focussing solely on papyri. The practical issues for a biblical scholar in dealing with inscriptions are presented and some guidance is given for those wishing to explore the resources further. Finally, examples are drawn together of how inscriptions can illuminate our understanding of Septuagint vocabulary, and thereby inform the socio-historical position of the Septuagint. The origins of apparently new words in the Septuagint, the semantic and grammatical function of words, and the geographical distribution and register all demonstrate the need for further investigation into this field.

Woes of smaller museum collections

IT'S HARD: Biblical-Era Collections Suffer in a New World of Archaeology (Geraldine Fabrikant, NYT)
In recent decades, countries that house remains of the ancient world have become determined to keep archaeological finds within their borders. Partly as a result, many smaller archaeological museums at religious-affiliated schools across the United States, lacking the financial resources to buy works or borrow actively from other collections, are scrambling to increase the museums’ appeal.

“Today they are often filling those museums with information, rather than with objects,” said Aaron Brody, director of the Badè Museum at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif. In the process, they have become largely “legacy museums,” he said.
For the Tel Zayit Abcedary see here and links. The Siegfried H. Horn Museum has also been mentioned here, although the links have now rotted.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Who wrote the Pentateuch?

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Who wrote the Torah? For thousands of years people believed that the five books of the Pentateuch were written by Moses. But it couldn't have been, academics say. (Elon Gilad). As usual with Haaretz, read this quickly before it goes behind the paywall.

The answer in this article describes the classical Documentary Hypothesis pretty well, although (1) the second creation story in Genesis uses the divine name YHWH Elohim, not just YHWH, and (2) the idea that the name of the writer of Deuteronomy was Shaphan (cf. 2 Kings 22:8-14) assumes that Deuteronomy was composed during Josiah's reign, whereas many specialists think that what was found in the Temple was an older document (old even in Josiah's time) which eventually served as the basis for our current book of Deuteronomy. In any case, specialists in Pentateuchal source criticism now tend to have some significant reservations about much of the classical Documentary Hypothesis. I have said more on the current state of this question here.

But, yes, everyone agrees that the Pentateuch was written long after the time of Moses, if there was a Moses.

Obama, Hannibal, etc.

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Is Obama a modern-day Quintus Fabius Maximus? (Brian Michael Jenkins, Los Angeles Times).
President Obama has been repeatedly accused of delay. Critics say he dragged his feet on sending more troops to Afghanistan, on addressing the dangers in Libya, on providing support to Syria's rebels and, most recently, on initiating military action against Islamic State.

But is that necessarily such a bad thing? Calculated delay has a long history as an effective military strategy, dating back at least to the Second Punic War in the 3rd century BC.

Although America is constantly compared to ancient Rome, this is the first time I can remember the comparison being to Rome during the Punic Wars.

Also, in The Mirror Tom Parry has a review of A History of the World in Numbers, by Emma Marriott, which includes this tidbit:
To launch the second Punic War (218–201BC), Carthaginian general Hannibal took an army of about 30,000 men and 37 elephants across the Pyrenees and Alps into Italy to fight the Romans.

One elephant survived – apparently named Surus, meaning “the Syrian”. Hannibal often rode it.

Carthage, on the coast of modern Tunisia, fell to the Romans in 146BC. They massacred 200,000 people and sold the remaining 50,000 as slaves.
More, recently, on the Punic Wars is here. Cross-file under "Punic Watch."

Le Donne on Perrucci

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Who is Ignazio Perrucci? (Anthony Le Donne).

Background here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hey, another copper scroll!

ARASH ZEINI: A note on the Schøyen copper scroll. This is a bibliographic note that leads to an article by Étienne de la Vaissière. The scroll itself is a Buddhist donation inscription written in Sanskrit and "Brahmī."

For the Qumran Copper Scroll (and facsimiles of it), see here and links. Inscriptions on metal are rare, but not unknown in the ancient world. Other examples are the gold cuneiform tablet and the gold tablets in Phoenician and Etruscan. A legendary example is mentioned in the Treatise of the Vessels. And the fake metal codices are an infamous and now thoroughly debunked fake example, but some genuine ancient lead inscriptions are noted here, here, and links.

Mind-boggling family law in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Talmud’s Difficulty Is What Makes the Talmud ‘Talmudic’—And Unlike the Law. Daf Yomi: In rabbinic Judaism, study is not merely a pragmatic enterprise, but a religious act in itself
Complex as this situation might appear, it is child’s play compared to some of the truly mind-bending hypotheticals that the rabbis raised in this week’s reading. We have often seen in the Talmud that the rabbis devote just as much attention to extremely unlikely possibilities as to real-world scenarios. This is, indeed, one of the things that make the Talmud “Talmudic” in the pejorative sense. Why, the impatient reader might wonder, spend so much time analyzing situations that surely would never arise in real life? Yet it is crucial to remember that, in rabbinic Judaism, the study of the law is not merely a pragmatic enterprise, like going to law school today. The study of Torah is a religious act in itself. The law forms a complete and perfect logical system, and all of its ramifications are equally valuable parts of that system. In American law, one sometimes hears the maxim “hard cases make bad law”: The more unusual and complex the case, the less suitable it is to serve as a precedent. The rabbis believe just the opposite: The law is never more fascinating to them than when it is difficult.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Very small very old coins

INCLUDING THE "WIDOW'S MITE": Small Change: The Tiniest Ancient Coins (Mike Markowitz, CoinWeek).
In the local coinage of first century Judea, the smallest denomination was a bronze coin called a lepton in Greek and a half prutah in Hebrew.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hadrian inscription in Jerusalem

NEWS FLASH: WATCH: 2,000-year-old inscription dedicated to Roman emperor unveiled in Jerusalem. Israel Antiquities Authority: This is among the most important Latin inscriptions ever discovered in Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post).
A rare fragment of a stone engraved with an official Latin inscription dedicated to the Roman emperor Hadrian, discovered in the capital in July by the Antiquities Authority, was unveiled at Rockefeller Museum in east Jerusalem Tuesday morning.


The inscriptions [sic], consisting of six lines of Latin text engraved on hard limestone, was read and translated by Avner Ecker and Hannah Cotton of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The English translation of the inscription is as follows: “To the Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the deified Traianus Parthicus, grandson of the deified Nerva, high priest, invested with tribunician power for the 14th time, consul for the third time, father of the country (dedicated by) the 10th legion Fretensis Antoniniana.”

Ecker, a Ph.D candidate, said the inscription was dedicated by Legio X Fretensis to the emperor Hadrian in the year 129/130 CE.

“The fragment of the inscription revealed by the IAA archaeologists is none other than the right half of a complete inscription, the other part of which was discovered nearby in the late nineteenth century, and was published by the pre-eminent French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau,” he said.


Sphinx excavated

ARCHAEOLOGY: Giant Sphinx from 'Ten Commandments' Film Unearthed
(Laura Geggel, LiveScience).
Hidden for more than 90 years beneath the rolling sand dunes of Guadalupe, California, an enormous, plaster sphinx from the 1923 blockbuster movie "The Ten Commandments" has been rediscovered and is now above ground.


Aramaic in Israel and on The Simpsons

MODERN ARAMAIC WATCH: First Arameam Gets Registered in Israel (Arutz Sheva). Background here and links.

And on a far less serious note: The Simpsons Halloween Special: Homer and Co Haunted? Where to Watch 'Treehouse of Horror' Online (Ruchinka Upadhyaya, International Business Times; my bold-font emphasis).
The animated comedy's 25th annual Halloween instalment, contains a segment that parodies The Others, in which the Simpsons are haunted by another ghostly family living in the house. These ghosts turn out to be none other than their crudely drawn former selves. The Simpsons, originally surfaced in 1987 as a series of animated shorts on [Tracey] Ullman's sketch comedy show.

And the second segment shows Bart and Lisa being transported to a demon-filled alternate universe after Bart reads a set of Aramaic symbols he finds on the underside of his desk.
I hate it when that happens.

The Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting

NEW JOURNAL: The Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting.
the Journal of the Jesus Movement in its Jewish Setting (JJMJS) -

JJMJS is a new interdisciplinary peer-reviewed online journal, published in cooperation with Eisenbrauns.

A rich variety of Jewish and Christian traditions and identities mutually shaped one another in the centuries-long course of Roman Late Antiquity. A no less rich variety of scholarly approaches – from the history of Christian Origins to that of the late empire, from archaeology to Dead Sea Scrolls, from Rabbinics to Patristics – has in recent years converged upon this period, the better to understand its religious and social dynamics. JJMJS seeks to facilitate and to encourage such scholarly investigations across disciplinary boundaries, and to make the results of cutting-edge research available to a worldwide audience.

JJMJS is free of charge with complete open access. The journal is published in cooperation with Eisenbrauns and will be available in hard copy, which can be ordered from Eisenbrauns.

SBL blogger events

IN SAN DIEGO NEXT MONTH: Bibliobloggers’ Gatherings at SBL/AAR (James McGrath). Planning is in progress. I'm not sure what else I have going on that Saturday evening, but I may see you there. Fortress also has a bloggers' roundtable on the Monday. Follow the link for both.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Cross logion on Hebrew

HARVARD MAGAZINE publishes an interesting inquiry from an alumnus:
Thomas Burrows hopes, after a half-century of searching, that someone can provide him with the source of the following assertion, delivered by Professor Frank Moore Cross during an elementary Hebrew course: “It was a saying of the ancient rabbis that you may as well learn Hebrew now because you will need it in the world to come.”
I was around Cross quite a bit for five years in the 1980s and I never heard him mention this particular saying. I do know that there is a Jewish tradition or saying that Hebrew is the language of heaven, but I don't have a specific reference. It does seem to be implied in the Talmud in b. Shabbat 12a, which advises making intercession for a sick person in Hebrew, because angels don't know Aramaic.

Baal sanctuary?

EXCAVATION: Ancient Cult Complex Discovered in Israel (Owen Jarus, Livescience).
A massive cult complex, dating back about 3,300 years, has been discovered at the site of Tel Burna in Israel.

While archaeologists have not fully excavated the cult complex, they can tell it was quite large, as the courtyard alone was 52 by 52 feet (16 by 16 meters). Inside the complex, researchers discovered three connected cups, fragments of facemasks, massive jars that are almost as big as a person and burnt animal bones that may indicate sacrificial rituals.

The archaeologists said they aren't sure who was worshipped at the complex, though Baal, the Canaanite storm god, is a possibility. "The letters of Ugarit [an ancient site in modern-day Syria] suggest that of the Canaanite pantheon, Baal, the Canaanite storm god, would have been the most likely candidate," Itzhaq Shai, a professor at Ariel University who is directing a research project at Tel Burna, told Live Science in an email.

The goddess Anat is also in the running. This is an exciting discovery and I hope it does turn out to be a major sanctuary. But I'll believe it's a Baal sanctuary when they find an inscription that says "House of Baal" or the like. Or better yet, another copy of the Ugaritic Baal epic.

Bejewelled watchers

JACK COLLINS: Addendum - to his excellent review of the Noah movie, noted here. So there's precedent after all for the idea of watchers made of stone.

More on Noah here and links.

Gathercole on the Gospels

BRITISH NEW TESTAMENT CONFERENCE 2014 PLENARY LECTURE: Simon Gathercole on the canonical and non-canonical Gospels. Summarized by Steve Walton. I was there too and I thought it was an impressive lecture.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Some Brill books

The Divine Courtroom in Comparative Perspective

Edited by Ari Mermelstein and Shalom E. Holtz, Yeshiva University

Contributors to The Divine Courtroom in Comparative Perspective treat one of the most pervasive religious metaphors, that of the divine courtroom, in both its historical and thematic senses. In order to shed light on the various manifestations of the divine courtroom, this volume consists of essays by scholars of the ancient Near East, Hebrew Bible, Second Temple Judaism, early Christianity, Talmud, Islam, medieval Judaism, and classical Greek literature. Contributions to the volume primarily center upon three related facets of the divine courtroom: the role of the divine courtroom in the earthly legal system; the divine courtroom as the site of historical justice; and the divine courtroom as the venue in which God is called to answer for his own unjust acts.

Eating in Isaiah
Approaching the Role of Food and Drink in Isaiah's Structure and Message

Andrew T. Abernethy, Wheaton College

In Eating in Isaiah Andrew Abernethy employs a sequential-synchronic approach to explore the role of eating in the structure and message of the book of Isaiah. By focusing on 'scaffolding' chapters (Isaiah 1; 36–37; 55; 65-66), avenues open for exploring how eating operates within the major sections of Isaiah and how the motif enhances the book's coherence. Furthermore, occurrences of eating in Isaiah create networks of association that grant perspective on significant topics in the book's message, such as Zion, YHWH’s kingship, and YHWH's servants. Amidst growing scholarly interest in food and drink within biblical literature, Eating in Isaiah demonstrates how eating can operate at a literary level within a prophetic book.

The Lawsuit Motif in John’s Gospel from New Perspectives
Jesus Christ, Crucified Criminal and Emperor of the World

Per Jarle Bekken, University of Nordland, Bodø

The study sheds fresh light on aspects of the lawsuit motif in John from the background of Diaspora-Jewish and Greco-Roman data and perspectives. – John’s narrative of the attempts on Jesus for such crimes as breaking the Sabbath, blasphemy, and seduction are illuminated from Philo’s perspectives on vigilante execution. – Furthermore, John’s narrative of the official Jewish and Roman forensic procedures against Jesus can also be situated within the framework of the Greco-Roman administration exemplified by the legal papyri from the Roman Egypt. – Philo’s expectation of an eschatological emperor, who shall rule over many nations, provides a cultural context for the way John’s gospel re-inscribed Jesus as the true “Emperor” of all the nations.