Saturday, February 14, 2015

Gabbay and Secunda (eds.), Encounters by the Rivers of Babylon

Encounters by the Rivers of Babylon
Scholarly Conversations Between Jews, Iranians and Babylonians in Antiquity
Ed. by Uri Gabbay and Shai Secunda

This volume presents a group of articles that deal with connections between ancient Babylonian, Iranian and Jewish communities in Mesopotamia under Neo-Babylonian, Achaemenid, and Sasanian rule. The studies, written by leading scholars in the fields of Assyriology, Iranian studies and Jewish studies, examine various modes of cultural connections between these societies, such as historical, social, legal, and exegetical intersections. The various Mesopotamian connections, often neglected in the study of ancient Judaism, are the focus of this truly interdisciplinary collection.
The conference was noted here back in 2011.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Babylonian-Judean cuneiform tablets and looting

A COMPLICATION? Ancient Tablets Displayed in Jerusalem Fuel Looting Debate (AP). The article says that suspicion has been raised that the tablets may have been looted in the 1990s, but the owner says that they were originally acquired legally in the 1970s. Whatever the merits of this particular case (and I do not have sufficient information to form an opinion), the whole issue of what to do about looted antiquities is fraught and difficult.

Background on the Babylonian-Judean cuneiform tablets is here and links. Some old posts dealing with the question of scholars using unprovenanced antiquities are here and here. See also these two essays in Bible and Interpretation:

New Policy on Cuneiform Texts from Iraq (ASOR, November 2004)
Should Scholars Authenticate and Publish Unprovenanced Finds? (Eric M. Meyers, February 2005)

UPDATE: The author attribution for the 2004 Bible and Interpretation essay was originally incorrect. I have corrected it above. Apologies for the error.

"Leviathan" excavated

"LEVIATHAN THAT CROOKED SERPENT": Ancient Leviathan Fossils Found in Arava Valley. Archaeologists and scientists have found remains of what may have been an ancient Leviathan in the Arava Valley, not far from the Dead Sea (Hana Levi Julian, The Jewish Press). Actually its a plesiosaur (kind of an aquatic dinosaur) called Elasmosaurus, not Leviathan. Leviathan is a mythological sea dragon mentioned in the Bible (e.g., Isaiah 27:1, whence the quotation), the Ugaritic texts, etc. Any connection between the two is extremely hypothetical. For example it is possible that ancient peoples occasionally dug up plesiosaur bones and that was the origin of the worldwide dragon myths. But there is no proof of this and I am skeptical.

There's lots more on ancient dragon traditions here, here, and links.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Babylonian-Judean cuneiform tablets exhibition

BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON: Remembering Babylon: New Exhibit Explores Roots of Jewish Life in Iraq (The Jewish Press: Anav Silverman, Tazpit News Agency).
The only museum in the world, dedicated to the history of the Ancient Near East from a biblical perspective, has a new exhibition examining the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people as never seen before. The Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem has amassed a collection of over 100 cuneiform tablets, original documents from the Judean community, which are now on display to the public for the first time.

The latest announcements include some new information about the contents of the tablets:
By the Rivers of Babylon, which also features innovative multi-media, original animations and local archeology from the First Temple, traces the family tree of fourth-generation Judean exile, Hagai Ben Ahiqam, all the way back to his great-grandfather, Samak Yama, who was born in Judah. One tablet describes the division of inheritance among Haggai and his brothers in Bablyon – the kind of information that Dr. Vukosavović says that one could find in a lawyer’s file cabinet today.

Hagai’s family lived in the Babylonian city known as Al-Yahudu, an important city, among many cities, which were settled by Judean exiles over 2,500 years ago, following Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple in 586 BCE.
Background here and links.

BAR's 40th

CONGRATULATIONS TO BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY REVIEW: Storied and Controversial Biblical Archaeology Magazine Turns 40. They do manage to keep things interesting.

The Israel Museum's 50th

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE ISRAEL MUSEUM: Israel Museum kicks off 50th anniversary celebrations. Exhibits include contemporary Israeli artists, the country as it was in 1965, exhibit on the Shrine of the Book, and the history of humankind (Judy Maltz, Haaretz).
The Israel Museum will kick off its 50th anniversary celebrations this week, with exhibits including contemporary artists and the country as it was in 1965.

Over the years, the country’s leading cultural institution has collected more than 500,000 objects and now serves nearly one million visitors a year.

It houses huge holdings of biblical and Holy Land archaeology, among them the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest biblical manuscripts ever found.

More on the renewal of the Israel Museum here and links. And a post on the Museum's 40th anniversary is here.

More on Flesher's award

PAUL FLESHER e-mails the following:
Several people have expressed interest in knowing more about the research project I will be conducting in my term as the Gitin Professor at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research. It has mistakenly been reported that my project encompasses the Huqoq mosaics. I wish to clarify that my research concerns not the Huqoq synagogue but the mosaics of other synagogues. To date there has been significant scholarly attention given to the zodiac cycles decorating the floors of ancient Galilean synagogues, but less attention to the other images. I intend to bring a ritual studies analysis to the floors of the synagogues at Sepphoris and Beth Alpha, looking especially at the images of the Temple/Torah Shrine, the lions, and sacrificial acts and implements. By combining information from the mosaics with interpretations found in the Palestinian Targums and the Palestinian rabbinic literature, where my expertise lies, I hope to reconstruct the sabbath liturgy and the meaning it was given in these sites.
Background here. I did not quote the full press release, relying on interested readers to follow the link. Apologies if this caused any confusion.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Hurtado on new Coptic text

LARRY HURTADO: Newly-Identified Coptic Text. The text is The Gospel of the Lots of Mary, which I have also discussed here.

By the way, this week looks increasingly busy and I may get little, if any, chance to blog during it.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

On Kulp and Rogoff, Reconstructing the Talmud

EVENT IN MODIIN THIS SATURDAY: Reconstructing the Talmud: A Talmud Blog Event. In honor of the new book by Joshua Kulp and Jason Rogoff, Reconstructing the Talmud: An Introduction to the Academic Study of Rabbinic Literature (Mechon Hadar, 2014). An uploaded recording is promised for those who cannot attend.