Saturday, January 17, 2015

Taking the red pill

TONY BURKE: Reflections on Teaching Gnosticism Week 1: Who Will Take the Red Pill?

More on modern reflections of Gnosticism, including Gnostic readings of The Matrix, here and links.

New books on Christian Palestinian Aramaic

A Dictionary of Christian Palestinian Aramaic

Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, 234

Authors: Sokoloff M.

Year: 2014
ISBN: 978-90-429-3183-1
Pages: XLII-466 p.
Price: 90 EURO

Christian Palestinian Aramaic is the name of the Aramaic dialect spoken and written by the Melkite community in Palestine during the first millennium CE. Nearly all of the texts that have survived in this dialect are translations of religious texts originally composed in Greek for the use of members of this community whose only language was Aramaic.
The only complete dictionary of this dialect was published over a century ago by Fr. Schulthess in 1903. However, since then, many new texts have been published and many previously known ones have been restudied and republished more accurately by various scholars.
The present work has taken into account all of the existing texts as well as the secondary literature in order to make this new dictionary an essential tool for Aramaic scholarship.

Texts of Various Contents in Christian Palestinian Aramaic

Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, 235

Authors: Sokoloff M.

Year: 2014
ISBN: 978-90-429-3184-8
Pages: X-247 p.
Price: 70 EURO

This book has been planned to be used together with the author's Dictionary of Christian Palestinian Aramaic. The texts which form the basis of this volume were originally published in a large number of scattered publications making both their citation in the dictionary and their use by the reader difficult. The purpose of the present work has been to gather all of these texts into one convenient volume and to republish them in the original Palestinian Aramaic script and format. Additionally, a number of Appendices dealing with this Aramaic dialect have been added to clarify other issues concerning the dictionary.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Reviewlet of Porter, Constantine Tischendorf

LARRY HURTADO: Constantine Tischendorf: New Book. I noted this book when it came out from Bloomsbury late last year.

Biblical sayings in Modern Hebrew

FOR HEBREW LANGUAGE WEEK: 4 Biblical Sayings That Spice Up Today’s Hebrew (P. David Hornik, PJMedia). The third one is my favorite. I have found it useful in many circumstances.

Background here.

Special issue of Iraninan Studies

ARASH ZEINI: Religious trends in late ancient and early Islamic Iran. This special issue of Iranian Studies includes some relevant articles involving Judaism.

The earliest manuscript of the NT?

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: What is the Oldest Manuscript of the New Testament? (Dirk Jongkind, ETC).

More on recent developments regarding P52 here.

Also, possibly related, Dorothy Lobel King asks: Is this More of the "First Century" Gospel of Mark? I haven't been following this story very carefully, but I have some background here and here and links. I am not a Greek epigrapher and I have no view about any possible relationship of these fragments to one another.

MNTA1 goes to press

New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures Vol. 1 is off to the publisher. Now for vol, 2.
I know the feeling. Congratulations, Tony and Brent.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Huehnergard on Cross

JOHN HUEHNERGARD: The Contributions of Frank Moore Cross to Semitic and Hebrew Philology (BASOR 372 [2014] via Abstract:
Frank Moore Cross’s contributions to Semitic and Hebrew philology were both direct and indirect: direct, in his publications on aspects of Hebrew, Phoenician, and Aramaic grammar; and indirect, in his insistence on the rigorous use of philological method in the study of ancient texts, whether those were Ugaritic inscriptions, or Aramaic papyri, or the Hebrew Bible. Te application of historical and comparative Semitic linguistics not only pervades his many publications, but was something that Cross taught his students to apply in their research as well. While Cross was better known for his contributions to biblical history, epigraphy, and Qumran studies, his deep knowledge of Semitic philology, and his meticulous use of it in his research, also marked him as one of the foremost philologists of the 20th century.
Yes. I am very fortunate to have learned philology and epigraphy from Cross and Comparative Semitics and the historical grammar of Hebrew from Huehnergard. Lots more on Frank Cross here and links.

Award for Outside the Bible

THE ARTY SEMITE: National Jewish Book Award Winners Are Here (Anne Cohen, The Forward). Under Scholarship the Nahum M. Sarna Memorial Award has been given to:
“Outside the Bible, 3-Volume Set: Ancient Jewish Writings Related to Scripture”
Louis H. Feldman, James L. Kugel and Lawrence H. Schiffman, eds.
Jewish Publication Society
Background here and here and links.

Roman-era glass

EXHIBITION: Met Museum Exhibit Features Ancient Roman Glass on Loan from Israel (The Jewish Voice).
In the early first century A.D. the most outstanding examples of Roman mold-blown glass were made by a craftsman called Ennion, and products of his workshop are the focus of the exhibition Ennion: Master of Roman Glass, opening December 9 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is the first exhibition of ancient glass organized by the Metropolitan, which has one of the finest collections of this material in the world.

The dangers of buying antiquities in Israel

A TRICKY QUESTION: Can you buy genuine antiquities in Israel? Even If you're getting a real artifact from Israelite history, chances are it's not kosher (Marty Friedlander, Haaretz). The basic answer is in this excerpt:
An artifact of "unknown provenance" can be sold; one from Tel Maresha or any other specific place will go to a museum collection or basement.

Which brings us back to the original question: Is that Persian period juglet in the store window genuine?

The shopkeeper will say yes. And most likely, it is. There’s such an abundance of genuine material available that it makes no sense to start making counterfeit pots and vessels.

Ah, but was it robbed as part of an illegal excavation? This is a far tougher question, one that if asked is liable to have you thrown out of the store. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is the byword of this business.

Coins are different. They are more likely to be counterfeit, several Old City antiquities dealers admitted to this reporter. Archaeologists concur.
Then there is this way to acquire a genuine antiquity, which is win-win all around:
An alternative to acquiring antiquities in the somewhat unsavory retail marketplace is to burrow through the stockpile of less-significant shards at an actual dig site. For instance, at Israel’s most popular hands-on archaeology-for-a-day program, “Dig for a Day” at Tel Maresha, the staff scrubs, examines and catalogs all of the shards found by the volunteers, and then offers the diggers a chance to take home the discards, which consist mainly of shards that lack identifying features.

For the archaeologist, the piece may be no more than a discard. But when the tourist sees it on her coffee table back home, it conjures up the memory of that day when she felt such a strong physical connection to an ancient culture, that is still very much alive.
More on the discovery of the fragments of the Heliodorus stele is here and links.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Repetition and Difference Exhibition

YAREAH MAGAZINE: New York exhibitions. The Jewish Museum Presents Exhibition of Contemporary Art and Collection Objects that Explore Repetition and Difference in Art With Over 350 Works of Contemporary Art, Judaica, and Archaeological Objects.
Repetition and Difference will feature works from the Museum’s collection—one of the largest and most comprehensive Judaica collections in the world—that have never before been exhibited in such profusion. Among the highlights are 45 examples of seemingly identical 18th-and 19th-century Hanukkah lamps from Eastern Europe that, on closer observation, display a multitude of motifs as well as small differences due to model condition or casting flaws. A group of 100 silver coins from 126/25 B.C.E. to 58/59 C.E. provide a rare opportunity to examine the contrast between the remarkable consistency in imagery over time and their variations due to human involvement in the minting process. The exhibition will also include boldly patterned 19th-century German Torah binders, enigmatic Judahite pillar figurines from ancient Israel, ornately decorated 19th-and-20th century Iranian marriage contracts, elegant silver spice containers, mezuzah cases, and more.

Ben Hur "reboot"

VARIETY MAGAZINE: Rodrigo Santoro to Play Jesus in ‘Ben-Hur’ (Dave McNary). Actually the article says that Mr. Santoro "is in negotiations to portray Jesus" in the new production of the 1880 novel. The new film is slated for release in 2016.

Jesus Spoke Aramaic

ARAMAIC WATCH:, A New WebSite for Learning Aramaic. Technically, Jesus spoke first-century Galilean Aramaic (about which we know all too little) but this website seems mostly to teach Syriac. But that is a good thing too. I don't know enough about it to endorse it or not, but the price is right. So you might want to have a look.

The Dovekeepers trailer

THE UPCOMING MINISERIES THE DOVEKEEPERS has now had its first trailer released:

Background here and links.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Jack Sasson retires

VANDERBILT NEWS: Listen: Renowned scholar of Hebrew Bible and ancient Near East retires from teaching.
Although Sasson, the founding director of Vanderbilt’s Program in Jewish Studies, has taught his last class, he will continue his scholarship in Assyriology and Hebrew Bible. Last May, Yale University Press published Sasson’s Judges: 1-12, A New Translation, with Introduction and Commentary. “That book ended up only covering the first 12 chapters of Judges because I had so much material,” Sasson said. “Now I need to start with Samson and focus on chapters 13-21.

Sasson has just now completed a volume that translates and annotates more than 700 letters and administrative documents from the clay tablets found at the Middle-Euphrates town of Mari. Information gleaned from the tablets provides an informed perspective on life in Mesopotamia in 18th century B.C.E.
Best wishes to Jack for a long, happy, and productive retirement. And if we thought the Agade List was active before, well, just wait ...

More on Jack Sasson here and links.

Glory and discomfiting sex in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Let’s Talk About Sex With Minors, Rape, and ‘Uncovering the Nakedness’ of Sisters. Talmudic rabbis, gladiators of the mind, sought glory and eternal fame—but also pondered the mundane side of being human.
Glory is not usually considered an important Jewish value. The ancient Greeks and Romans built whole cultures around the pursuit of individual glory and eternal fame, and much of the Western ethos of competitive individualism can be traced back to those classical sources. The biblical kings of Israel, too, were no strangers to the desire for glory: David strove to kill more Philistines than Saul, an achievement the people celebrated in the song, “Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands.” The Temple that Solomon built was in honor of God, but also in honor of Solomon himself, a demonstration of his wealth and power.

In rabbinic Judaism, on the other hand, such considerations are virtually absent. This was for a good reason: In the centuries after the destruction of the Temple and the Bar Kochba revolt, there was simply no worldly arena in which Jews could win the old-fashioned kind of military or political glory. But as Daf Yomi readers saw in a telling passage this week, this does not mean that Jews stopped dreaming of achievement and reputation. Instead, the rabbis, the elite of the Jewish community, imagined a different kind of fame: the reputation of being a subtle and penetrating interpreter of Torah. And when it came to this kind of fame, the Talmud makes clear, the rabbis were every bit as competitive as any Greek wrestler.

More on the theme of rabbinic scholarship and martial glory here.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Metatron meets the guardians of the gates

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: Guards Gun Down Four Angels Escaping From Heaven (The Onion).
A statement provided to the press identified the four dead angels as Zophiel, Jehoel, Shamsiel, and Metatron.
Somebody who knew a lot about angels in Western traditions put some thought into this one. But normally it's the job of the guardians of the gates to keep people out, not angels in.

HT James McGrath.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Hebrew words in English

HEBREW LANGUAGE WEEK: Hebrew words in English you didn't even know you knew. How Bugs Bunny forever changed the meaning of an ancient Hebrew word and six-winged chimeras morphed into cherubs. (Elon Gilad, Haaretz).
It's Hebrew Language Week in Israel, which is an apt time to consider Hebrew words you didn't even know you know – because they have become embedded in the English language.

Most regular PaleoJudaica readers will be familiar with most of these, but here's one I didn't know and had always wondered about:
Nimrod: This has meant "moron" since the 1940s, before which it meant "mighty hunter," from the name of Nimrod, a biblical character reputed to be a great hunter. For that one can thank Bugs Bunny, who called the inept Elmer Fudd “poor little nimrod.” Fudd’s two attributes – fool and hunter - got confused in the minds of viewers, forever changing the meaning of the word.
More on the word "cherub" in English here.

Aramaic in Austraila

MODERN ARAMAIC WATCH: The Assyrian Diqlat School in Fairfield celebrates 40 years of teaching (Jennine Abdul Khalik, Fairfield Advance).
THE Assyrian Diqlat School, a community language school based at Fairvale High School, recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Principal Carmen Lazar, who is also the manager of the Assyrian Resource Centre, said she was proud to have celebrated 40 years of keeping the Assyrian language alive among community members.


A royal escape tunnel from the Exile?

POPULAR ARCHAEOLOGY: Archaeologists Uncover Possible Royal Escape Tunnel at Biblical Site Tunnel may have been used by royal inhabitants of ancient city of Geshur near Sea of Galilee.
A team of archaeologists excavating at the ancient site best known as Bethsaida not far from the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee have encountered what they suggest may be what is left of an escape tunnel that was used by the city’s royal elite during the times of ancient Israel and Judah.

Though it is still very early in the investigation process, one entrance of the tunnel has been located, and collapsed structural debris and ground penetrating radar images have indicated possible evidence of the suspected tunnel area extending from an ancient palace structure out to an outer city wall. Similar features have been found at other ancient sites, and the biblical account, for example, documents such an escape route used by King Zedekiah and others when Jerusalem was being besieged by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar.

The article also has more on the excavations of the first-century CE city of Bethsaida and the Iron-Age II city under it. There is a large cave under Jerusalem which is known as "Zedekiah's Cave," now used for speed dating, but its connection with Zedekiah's escape route seems to be legendary. The Bethsaida excavations have also come up in past posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Punic Wars meet Italian football

PUNIC WATCH: Lotito: 'Lazio's Punic Wars' (Football Italia).
Lazio President Claudio Lotito said his team goes into “three Punic Wars” against Sampdoria, Roma and Napoli.


Yadin-Israel, Scripture and Tradition

Scripture and Tradition
Rabbi Akiva and the Triumph of Midrash

Azzan Yadin-Israel

336 pages | 6 x 9
Cloth Dec 2014 | ISBN 978-0-8122-4643-8 | $75.00s | £49.00 |
Ebook Dec 2014 | ISBN 978-0-8122-9043-1 | $75.00s | £49.00 |
A volume in the Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion series

"Conceptually sophisticated and wonderfully erudite, Scripture and Tradition touches on the most fundamental questions of the Midrashic project."—Moshe Halbertal, New York University

The earliest rabbinic commentary to the Book of Leviticus, the Sifra, is generally considered an exemplum of Rabbi Akiva's intensely scriptural school of interpretation. But, Azzan Yadin-Israel contends, the Sifra commentary exhibits two distinct layers of interpretation that bring dramatically different assumptions to bear on the biblical text: earlier interpretations accord with the hermeneutic principles associated with Rabbi Ishmael, the other major school of early rabbinic midrash, while later additions subtly alter hermeneutic terminology and formulas, resulting in an engagement with Scripture that is not interpretive at all. Rather, the midrashic terminology in the Sifra's anonymous passages is part of what Yadin-Israel calls "a hermeneutic of camouflage," aimed at presenting oral traditions as though they were Scripture-based injunctions.

Scripture and Tradition offers a radical rereading of the Sifra and its authorship, with far-reaching ramifications for our understanding of rabbinic literature as a whole. Using this new understanding of the Sifra as his starting point, Yadin-Israel demonstrates a two fold break in the portrayal of Rabbi Akiva: hermeneutically, the sober midrashist who appeared in earlier rabbinic sources is transformed into an inspired, oracular interpreter of Scripture in the Babylonian Talmud; while the biographically unremarkable sage is recast as a youthful ignoramus who came to Torah study late in life. The dual transformations of Rabbi Akiva—like the Sifra's hermeneutic of camouflage—are motivated by an ideological shift toward a greater emphasis on scriptural authority and away from received traditions, an insight that sheds new light on the vexing question of midrash and oral tradition in rabbinic sources. Through this close examination of a notoriously difficult text, Scripture and Tradition recovers a vital piece of the history of Jewish thought.