Saturday, August 01, 2015

Friesen, Reading Dionysus

Reading Dionysus
Euripides' Bacchae and the Cultural Contestations of Greeks, Jews, Romans, and Christians

Courtney J. P. Friesen explores shifting boundaries of ancient religions by way of the reception of a popular tragedy, Euripides’ Bacchae . As a play staging political crises provoked by the arrival of the “foreign” god Dionysus and his ecstatic cult, audiences and readers found resonances with their own cultural moments. This dramatic deity became emblematic of exuberant and liberating spirituality and, at the same time, a symbol of imperial conquest. Thus, readings of the Bacchae frequently foreground conflicts between religious autonomy and political authority, and between ethnic diversity and social cohesion. This cross-disciplinary study traces appropriations and evocations of this drama ranging from the fifth century BCE through Byzantium not only among “pagans” but also Jews and Christians. Writers variously articulated their religious visions over against Dionysus, often while paradoxically adopting the god’s language and symbols. Consequently, imitation and emulation are at times indistinguishable from polemics and subversion.

Brody, Mishna and Tosefta Ketubbot

Mishna and Tosefta Ketubbot

Text, Exegesis and Redaction

By Robert Brody

Publisher: The Hebrew University Magnes Press
Talmud, Jewish Studies
Publish date: July 2015
Language: Hebrew
Danacode: 45-131136
ISBN: 978-965-493-814-3
Cover: Paperback
Pages: 328
Weight: 700 gr.

Mishnah and Tosefta Ketubbot: Text, Exegesis and Redaction includes new editions of tractate Ketubbot in the Mishnah and Tosefta and offers a new model for presenting these interdependent texts. After an introduction which deals at length with some central topics in Mishnah and Tosefta research, especially with regard to textual criticism, the two editions are presented in parallel; each edition is accompanied by selected variants and explanatory notes.

Genz, Jesaja 53 als theologische Mitte der Apostelgeschichte

Jesaja 53 als theologische Mitte der Apostelgeschichte
Studien zu ihrer Christologie und Ekklesiologie im Anschluss an Apg 8,26-40

[Isaiah 53 as the Theological Center of Acts. Studies on its Christology and Ecclesiology after Acts 8:26-40.]

Published in German.

Rouven Genz presents a new approach to the research of the Acts of the Apostles. He states that the book of Acts qualifies not as a primarily historically but rather theologically motivated corpus and its author is appreciated as an exegete of scripture. Genz's main emphasis is on the examination of the reception of texts from the book of Isaiah. The focal point is the story of Philip and the Ethiopian treasurer in Acts 8, which manifests exemplarily Luke's interest with recourse to Isaiah 53. Beyond that, the Isaianic tradition in general, as well as the concept of the Servant of God in particular, also prove to be the hermeneutical key for the Lucan christology and ecclesiology: Luke regards Jesus as the Servant of God in the Isaianic sense and his followers as servants of the Servant. Moreover, Luke acquires his soteriological premises from the Isaianic texts as well: He conceives of Jesus' death as an atoning death.

Buth and Notley (eds.), The Language Environment of First Century Judaea

The Language Environment of First Century Judaea
Jerusalem Studies in the Synoptic Gospels—Volume Two

Edited by Randall Buth and R. Steven Notley
The articles in this collection demonstrate that a change is taking place in New Testament studies. Throughout the twentieth century, New Testament scholarship primarily worked under the assumption that only two languages, Aramaic and Greek, were in common use in the land of Israel in the first century. The current contributors investigate various areas where increasing linguistic data and changing perspectives have moved Hebrew out of a restricted, marginal status within first-century language use and the impact on New Testament studies. Five articles relate to the general sociolinguistic situation in the land of Israel during the first century, while three articles present literary studies that interact with the language background. The final three contributions demonstrate the impact this new understanding has on the reading of Gospel texts.
Noted by Dr. Buth here, where you can read on of his articles in the volume. Related PaleoJudaica posts are here and links.

UPDATE: Incorrect link now fixed!

The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek

The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek

Franco Montanari, Genoa. English Edition edited by Madeleine Goh and Chad Schroeder, under the auspices of the Center for Hellenic Studies. Advisory Editors: Gregory Nagy, Harvard, and Leonard Muellner, Brandeis

The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek is the English translation of Franco Montanari’s Vocabolario della Lingua Greca. With an established reputation as the most important modern dictionary for Ancient Greek, it brings together 140,000 headwords taken from the literature, papyri, inscriptions and other sources of the archaic period up to the 6th Century CE, and occasionally beyond. The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek is an invaluable companion for the study of Classics and Ancient Greek, for beginning students and advanced scholars alike.

Translated and edited under the auspices of The Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC, The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek is based on the completely revised 3rd Italian edition published in 2013 by Loescher Editore, Torino.
As the rest of the blurb notes, the book is also available online.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Questions for the Early High Christology Club

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION: Critical Questions for the Early High Christology Club (Michael Kok). Although I am the proud owner of an EHCC coffee mug, I think I will leave to to members of the club who work more on early Christology than I do to reply to Dr. Kok's questions.

Some links with some of my thoughts about the historical Jesus are collected here. And an old (and later published in revised form) essay of mine on ancient divine mediator figures is here. At present I am very sympathetic to Pieter Craffert's proposal that the historical Jesus was a shamanistic practitioner (but not technically a "shaman," which was an intermediary role in hunting cultures). A relevant post is here and there is a highly relevant SBL session coming up in November if you are interested in the subject.

Review of Yohanna, The Gospel of Mark in the Syriac Harklen Version

SYRIAC WATCH: Book Review: The Gospel of Mark in the Syriac Harklean Version (2015) (Peter J. Gurry, ETC Blog)

Metatron playing in Rio

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: Festival Multiplicidade Returns to Rio de Janeiro Starting July 30th. The technology, music, art and design event Festival Multiplicidade returns this week for its eleventh edition entitled, Multiplicidade 2025 (Chesney Hearst, Rio Times). Metatron's band, or one of them at any rate, was there.
Emphasizing the theme of the future of art, music and technology, Multiplicidade 2025 will include many programs geared toward a younger audience. Bands Metatron and Codeclub will perform during the opening night on July 30th, with both groups featuring members aged fifteen through twenty.
Maybe he stayed in South America for a gig after the International SBL meeting last week in Buenos Aires.

More on the Church of Loaves and Fishes arson arrests

THE SUSPECTS HAVE BEEN NAMED: Two Jewish extremists indicted for vandalizing ancient church on Sea of Galilee (Catholic World News).
Two young men, Yinon Reuveni and Yehud Asraf, have been indicted for the crime. The prosecutors said that Reuveni was the driving force behind the attack, motivated by his belief that Christians are idol worshippers.
Background here and links.

Another looting arrest in Israel

BUSTED: Antiquities theft thwarted near Beit Shemesh in late night helicopter chase. 63 coins, 2000 years old, recovered (HAYAH GOLDLIST-EICHLER, Jerusalem Post).
The theft of a trove of ancient coins was thwarted by a joint force of the Antiquities Authority and Yehuda Region Border Police late Tuesday evening in the Beit Shemesh area.

The team of thieves was discovered by Antiquities Authority inspectors observing the area on Tuesday evening, digging and using a metal detector at the archeological site next to Taoz. The inspectors alerted the police who brought in a helicopter to apprehend the suspects.

One was arrested while a second managed to flee the scene, though police know his identity.

Other looting arrests in Israel this year have been noted here (also involving coins and Beit Shemesh), here, and here.

Review of The Vatican Tapes

THAT SOUNDS LIKE AN UNDERSTATEMENT: 'The Vatican Tapes' review: The movie could be better (Reagan Gavin Rasquinha, The Economic Times). I note the movie not for any cinematic merit, but because of this:
Angela's strange behavior starts manifesting just before she gets into a car accident. It takes months for her to wake up from a coma. She does so, strangely enough, when Father Lozano (Pena, suitably somber) blesses her with holy water. But all is far from well. Angela can speak in ancient tongues (Aramaic included), summon ravens (considered a symbol of death) and cause people to temporarily lose their minds and fatally injure themselves.
My bold-font emphasis. More evidence, I guess, that demons speak Aramaic.

Cross-file under Aramaic Watch.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Another early Qur'an fragment?

PRESS RELEASE: Koran manuscript from early period of Islam. Tübingen University fragment written 20-40 years after the death of the Prophet, analysis shows.
A Koran fragment from the University of Tübingen Library has been dated to the 7th century - the earliest phase of Islam - making it at least a century older than previously thought. Expert analysis of three samples of the manuscript parchment concluded that it was more than 95 percent likely to have originated in the period 649-675 AD - 20 to 40 years after the death of the Prophet Mohammed. Such scientific dating of early Koran manuscripts is rare.

The Tübingen fragment was tested by the Coranica project, a collaboration between the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres Paris and the Berlin-Brandenburgischen Academy of the Sciences and Humanities, sponsored by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and France’s Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR). The project investigates the Koran in the context of its historical background using documents such as manuscripts and information derived from archaeological excavations.

The project carries out palaeographic analyses to determine the age of a text via its special characteristics. The carbon-14 analysis of the Tübingen fragment was carried out by the Ion Beam Physics Laboratory at ETH Zürich.

(HT the Corpus Hellenisticum page on Facebook.) Like the recently announced results of the radiocarbon dating of the Birmingham Qur'an fragments (Mingana 1572a), discussed at length here and links, this is potentially a very exciting discovery. But there does seem to be some concern about whether the paleographical and codicological features in the Birmingham manuscript line up well with the early C-14 date. The Progressive Scottish Muslims Blog quotes (but gives no source or link for) skeptical comments by Professor Qasim al-Samarrai of Leiden, an expert in this area. His view is that the Birmingham fragments "belong to the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 3rd century Higra if not later" (i.e., close to two centuries after the death of Muhammud), based on the script and other features of the manuscript. He refers also to the fragments of Tübingen (evidently the ones in this press release) and of Berlin. (I found this link somewhere on Facebook too, but I forget where. Sorry.)

If it turns out that there is a consistent conflict between the radiocarbon dates and the dates suggested by the script and layout of these Qur'an manuscripts, then there is more work to do.

Interesting times. Watch this space.

Report on the Fifth Enoch Seminar Nangeroni Meeting

Scholars from Europe, North America, and Australia gathered to Naples on 30 June – 4 July 2015 to participate in the Fifth Enoch Seminar Nangeroni Meeting ”Second Temple Jewish Paideia in its Ancient and Hellenistic Contexts”. The organisers of the conference – Jason Zurawski, Gabriele Boccaccini, and Luca Arcari – had compiled a fascinating programme of academic papers and field trips.

The website for this Nageroni meeting, which took place 30 June through 4 July, is at: Second Temple Jewish Paideia in its Ancient Near Eastern and Hellenistic Contexts / Fifth Nangeroni Meeting (2015 Naples), conference.

More on the Talmud and consent

POLITICS, SEX, AND THE TALMUD: What Michael Cohen Doesn't Understand About Rape — Or the Talmud (Melanie Landau, The Forward). Now let us be clear: PaleoJudaica does not regard American Presidential candidates or their lawyers to be part of its remit and it has no interest in commenting on them. Nevertheless, although Mr. Cohen did not himself mention the Talmud, this article includes another discussion of the issue of sexual consent in the Talmud, and this adds to the earlier discussion of the subject a while ago (here and links; note also here) raised by Dr. Ruth's comments. Eruvin 100b was already brought into that discussion but, as far as I can tell, the following was not:
However another Talmudic passage (Tractate Niddah 12a) raises serious questions at to whether the rabbis actually require married women to consent to sexual intercourse:

“The rabbis teach: Donkey drivers and workers and those who come from a mourning house and from a house of celebration - their women have a presumption of ritual purity. And they can come and be with them whether they are awake or asleep. What does this refer to? If he left them in a state of ritual purity, but if he left them in a state of ritual impurity then she is ritually impure until she says ‘I am ritually pure’.”

In this source we see that women’s ostensible personal consent is superseded by the category of her ritual purity and impurity. If he knows that she was ritually impure when he left then a husband assumes his wife is also in this state when he arrives home and that he can have sexual intercourse with her even while she is sleeping. She does not need to consent but she does need to have been ritually pure, at least when he left her. Later Talmudic commentators reconcile this source that seems to sanction sexual relations without consent with previous statements requiring of consent by developing the concept of “semi-sleeping” which still enables consent while not fully awake.
I am not a specialist in Talmud and will not try to offer an expert opinion on what the passage might mean, but I note it here as part of the discussion.

Iudaea recepta coin

NUMISMATICS: 2,000-Year-Old Coin Sheds Light on Important Role of Judea on Roman Psych (Raphael Poch, Breaking Israel News).
A rare coin minted almost 2,000 years ago during the conquest of Jerusalem was recently found at an auction in Zurich, NRG reported. The find has helped shed light upon the Roman attitude at the time over the conquest, resulting in a large commemoration of the Roman victory over the Judean rebels.

The coin depicts a Jewess standing and peering across a palm tree and bears the inscription “IUDAEA RECEPTA,” or “Judea is re-captured.” Coins bearing this inscription were used to publicize the news of a captured territory that had been part of the Roman Empire once before.

The newly discovered coin is unlike other numerous coins minted by the Romans after the conquest of Jerusalem and the Judean province between 67-73 CE. Those coins bear the inscription “IUDAEA CAPTA” and portray a woman sitting on the floor under a palm tree or a legionnaire resting on a spear while a Jewish slave is captive at his feet.

The slight changes make all the difference. Unlike the “CAPTA” coins, which were minted to proclaim Roman victory over a new province that was being absorbed into the empire, the “RECAPTA” [read "RECEPTA" - JRD] coin, marks a Roman conquest over a rebellion, rather than a war.

UPDATE: The following article, available at, seems to be the editio princeps for the coin: Gambash, G., Gitler, H., and Cotton, H. M. (2013), ‘Iudaea Recepta,’ Israel Numismatic Research 8: 89-104. Another article, in Hebrew, from the same source is: Gambash, G., Gitler, H., and Cotton, H. M. (2014), 'Iudaea Recepta,' New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem 8: 37-49 (Heb.). A third article, in German, has been published by Marco Vitale: "IUDAEA RECEPTA — EINE NEUE LEGENDE AUF GOLDMÜNZEN VESPASIANS, Ancient Society 44, 243-255. This is available at the Peeters website behind a subscription wall, but you can read the English abstract for free.


YONA SABAR: Hebrew word of the week: Hekhal (Jewish Journal).
It is amazing how a word that signifies “holy of holies of the temple or tabernacle” is actually a loan word from a “pagan” language: the Sumerian word akkadian, which became e-kal or “big house, palace” (Isaiah 29:7; Daniel 1:4; 4:1).*

And let's not forget the Hekhalot literature, the mystical literature of the celestial "palaces."

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review of Stratton et al. (eds.), Daughters of Hecate

Kimberly B. Stratton, Dayna S. Kalleres (ed.), Daughters of Hecate: Women and Magic in the Ancient World. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Pp. xv, 533. ISBN 9780195342710. $39.95.

Reviewed by Maxwell Teitel Paule, Earlham College (


An edited collection of fifteen articles, Daughters of Hecate: Women in Magic in the Ancient World follows in the footsteps of Brian Levack’s (1992) Articles on Witchcraft, Magic and Demonology series, Marvin Meyer and Paul Mirecki’s two volumes, Ancient Magic and Ritual Power (1995) and Magic and Ritual in the Ancient World (2002), and Gordon and Simón’s Magical Practice in the Latin West (2010). This particular volume – which is not a conference proceedings – focuses on women and magic and helps narrow the scope of a potentially broad field by purposefully avoiding treatments of the by-now familiar characters of Apuleius, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Chresimus, Zatchlas, and the like, in favor of exploring the roles of lesser-known, often anonymous women. (Circe and Medea, for example, are discussed at length in only one article [p. 42-52].) The result is a thorough collection that offers diverse perspectives on the roles of women and magic supported by evidence from the written and material records of numerous cultures.

I noted the publication of the book here.

Review of Seland, Reading Philo

BOOK REVIEW: (Ken Schenck, Common Denominator blog). A review in eight parts of Torrey Seland's Reading Philo: A Handbook to Philo of Alexandria. There's more on the book here and links.

Schmidt (ed.), Contextualizing Israel's Sacred Writings

Contextualizing Israel's Sacred Writings: Ancient Literacy, Orality, and Literary Production
Brian B. Schmidt (Editor)

ISBN 1628371188
Status Forthcoming
Price: $46.95
Binding Paperback
Publication Date July, 2015
Pages 384

An essential resource exploring orality and literacy in the pre-Hellenistic southern Levant and the Hebrew Bible

Situated historically between the invention of the alphabet, on the one hand, and the creation of ancient Israel's sacred writings, on the other, is the emergence of literary production in the ancient Levant. In this timely collection of essays by an international cadre of scholars, the dialectic between the oral and the written, the intersection of orality with literacy, and the advent of literary composition are each explored as a prelude to the emergence of biblical writing in ancient Israel. Contributors also examine a range of relevant topics including scripturalization, the compositional dimensions of orality and textuality as they engage biblical poetry, prophecy, and narrative along with their antecedents, and the ultimate autonomy of the written in early Israel. The contributors are James M. Bos, David M. Carr, André Lemaire, Robert D. Miller II, Nadav Na'aman, Raymond F. Person Jr., Frank H. Polak, Christopher A. Rollston, Seth L. Sanders, Joachim Schaper, Brian B. Schmidt, William M. Schniedewind, Elsie Stern, and Jessica Whisenant.
Follow the link for further details and ordering information.

Are sources cited in the Hebrew Bible fabricated?

IT DID HAPPEN SOMETIMES: Ancient Historians Fabricating Sources (Neil Godfrey, Vridar Blog). Just ran across this interesting discussion of fabricated sources in works by ancient writers. The post opens:
Throughout the books of the Hebrew Bible (the Christian’s “Old Testament”) one finds assurances for readers that the stories (or histories) being told are detailed in other written sources. Readers are further assured in a number of cases in the books of Kings and Chronicles that even more details can be found in outside sources.

That sounds authoritative. Surely only a “hyper-sceptical” cynic would insist that such source citations were fabricated and the narratives have no credible foundation whatsoever.

But there is a more prudent alternative to having to choose between either/or. We have no independent evidence for the existence of these cited sources but of course that does not mean they never existed.

Are we going a step too far, however, to wonder if they never existed at all and that our biblical authors really did fabricate at least some of them? How could we possibly know?
No, of course there is no objection to inquiring whether some or all of the lost books cited in the Hebrew Bible are fabrications that never existed. Some people think that to be the case. But this post offers only one argument in favor of that conclusion: the fact that we can verify that some ancient authors fabricated sources that they cited. So the fact that an ancient author cites a source is not proof that the source existed. The discussion in the blog post of some of these fabrications is interesting and I commend it to you.

That said, there are also many, many examples of ancient authors citing works that we know existed, because we still have them. So each case has to be evaluated on its own merits. And there are a number of positive arguments in favor of at least some of those sources cited in the Hebrew Bible being genuine.

• In general the chronicles cited in 1-2 Kings seemed to have had the same format and interests as ancient Mesopotamian chronicles and likewise the same interests as ancient Northwest Semitic inscriptions that may have been derived from lost chronicles.

• The poetic texts cited in the Pentateuch and the Deuteronomistic History have early features of grammar and vocabulary which are consistent with their being considerably older than the work that cites them. Moreover, the biblical authors sometimes misunderstood these sources, which strongly suggests that these sources had an independent and earlier existence. (We know they misunderstood them because, thanks to archaeology and philology, our understanding of the earlier forms of the language is actually better than the understanding of the biblical authors.)

• Once in awhile the cited source has details that can be confirmed archaeologically.

I do not think that every source cited in the Hebrew Bible was genuine. For example, I doubt very much that the author of the book of Esther actually had access to the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia. Such chronicles doubtless did exist, but they are cited there as a device to advance the story. At the other extreme, I think it is difficult to regard the lament poem in 2 Samuel 1 as anything but a genuinely ancient text, one that may well have been composed by David. I also think that the case for the use by the Deuteronomist of a real Chronicles of the Kings of Israel and Chronicles of the Kings of Judah is pretty good.

This has been one of my areas of interest for a long time. Past posts on the subject are here and here. And for many other posts on ancient lost books, see here and here and links.

Outside of the blog, see my article "Quotations from Lost Books in the Hebrew Bible" in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1 (ed. Bauckham, Davila, and Panayotov; Eerdmans, 2013), pp. 673-84. This article cites the relevant scholarly literature and gives the positive arguments for many of the sources cited in the Hebrew Bible being genuine. Anyone who wishes to show otherwise needs to address these arguments.

Volume 2, now in progress, will also include a chapter on lost Old Testament pseudepigrapha known only by title.

Ashkelon 2015

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Wrapping Up Ashkelon’s 2015 Season (Tracy Hoffman).
The 2015 Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon field season is officially in the books. After six weeks of excavation, countless discoveries and more than a few surprises, the volunteers have returned home, and the grids stand empty. The once-bustling pottery compound echoes with bird calls and the sound of waves crashing on the beach. It’s hard to believe that only a week ago the field season was still in full swing. And what a season it was! From identifying the earliest human activity on site and learning more about the city that succumbed to Nebuchadnezzar in 604 B.C., to searching for the urban core of the Roman city, this summer was one to remember.

Another recent post on Ashkelon is here, with links. I worked on the Ashkelon dig in 1987-88 and I am sad to hear that next year will be the last season of excavation there.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Will carbon emissions interfere with radiocarbon dating?

OMINOUS: Fossil fuel emissions are making carbon dating more difficult (Sarah Kaplan, WaPo).
Carbon dating had never been, and likely never again will be, quite so glamorous — or so controversial [as when dating the Shroud of Turin]. And, thanks to atmospheric changes caused by the burning of fossil fuels, it could become even more complicated.

That’s according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published Monday. Physicist Heather D. Graven of Imperial College London found that carbon emissions from fossil fuels are artificially raising the carbon age of the atmosphere, making objects today seem older to a carbon dater. By 2050, new clothes could have the same radiocarbon date as something that’s ten centuries old.
You can read the new study here (but probably it's behind a subscription wall - I have an institutional subscription). The abstract is here.

If correct, this conclusion isn't very good news, but let's keep in mind that it is based on simulations, since there really isn't any way to conduct controlled, repeatable experiments for this type of question. Such simulations are far from infallible, so I think some degree of skepticism is warranted. We'll see.

Radiocarbon dating is an important, if sometimes less than straightforward, tool for historians. Some relevant posts are here, here, here (but see also here and links), and here (but follow the link at the bottom for follow-up posts).

Perqs for Torah study in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Do Torah Scholars Have the Right Not To Be Drafted by the Government? In rabbinic Judaism, learning replaces noble birth as a source of power and status—including the power to avoid state responsibility.
One of the most contentious issues in Israeli politics is the exemption of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students from army service. The exemption dates back to the beginning of the state, when only a few hundred men were affected; today, as many as 50,000 choose to study Torah rather than serve in the IDF. A law was passed to limit this practice in 2014, but it was rolled back earlier this year as part of a deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the ultra-Orthodox parties in the Knesset. To secular Israelis, the exemption is patently unfair, as well as an economic burden on the state. To the haredim themselves, on the other hand, the idea of tearing students away from Torah study represents on attack on their core values and on Judaism itself.

One of the compelling things about reading Daf Yomi is that, in the middle of seemingly arcane debates about, say, planting onions or grafting vines, you can suddenly come across a passage that directly addresses today’s headlines. That is what happened this week with the question of army exemptions; and it turns out that, unsurprisingly perhaps, the haredim have clear Talmudic support for their position. ...
Incidentally, the stories about R. Akiva and his wife noted earlier today also illustrate the special status of Torah study in the Talmud. Whether this high status was a social reality or a social aspiration in the time of the Talmud is an interesting question.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Temple denial from an MK

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Arab parliament member denies Jewish claim to Temple Mount, sparking Israeli outrage (Michele Chabin, Religion News Service).
JERUSALEM (RNS) An Arab-Israeli parliament member drew harsh criticism from Jewish Israelis on Monday (July 27) when he claimed that Jews have no religious ties to the Temple Mount, considered the holiest site in Judaism.


The remarks by Masud Ganaim of the Joint (Arab) List political party came a day after clashes between masked Muslim rioters and Israeli police marred the holy Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av — a day when tens of thousands of Jewish worshippers pray at the Western Wall, which lies directly below the Temple Mount.


Ganaim told Israel Radio that “historically, religiously, it is a Muslim site, period. The State of Israel knows that Jews and Israel have no legitimacy to the site, except for their legitimacy as an occupier — a legitimacy (won) by force,” he said.


Another recently reported incident of Jewish-Temple denial is noted here.

Rabbi Akiva's wife

FOR TU B'AV: Loving A Potato, Loving A Woman (Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, The Jewish Week). Rabbi Steinsaltz illustrates the difference with the touching Talmudic story of Rabbi Akiva and his wife. More on her story here and (with textual references) here.
Editor’s note: Tu B’Av (literally, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av) is marked this weekend, a day that in ancient times was celebrated through matchmaking for unmarried women. It has been revived in modern Israel as a kind of Valentine’s Day, celebrating love.
As noted last year in this post, the ancient holiday of Tu B'Av (this year Sunset, July 30 - Nightfall, July 31) seems to be making a comeback.

The Prime Minister and the Dead Sea Scroll

A VISIT TO THE HEAD OF STATE: PM reads from ancient Bible scroll in honor of Tisha B'Av (Shlomo Cesana and Israel Hayom Staff).
Found in the Qumran Caves beside the Dead Sea, the 2,000-year-old scroll is the earliest known example of the Book of Lamentations • PM Benjamin Netanyahu: It is significant that this scroll has been brought to united capital of Jerusalem on Tisha B'Av.
I can see from the photographs that this was the same scroll as the one mentioned in this story.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Fisher (ed.), Arabs and Empires before Islam

Arabs and Empires before Islam
Edited by Greg Fisher
608 pages | 89 black and white illustrations and 16 colour plates | 234x156mm
978-0-19-965452-9 | Hardback | July 2015 (estimated)
Also available as: eBook
Price: £120.00
  • The only volume to provide a rich and detailed anthology of sources for the history of Arabs in the Near East and Middle East in the pre-Islamic period
  • Features international contributors drawn from a broad range of academic disciplines, including archaeology, classics, ancient history, linguistics, philology, epigraphy, and art history
  • Provides up-to-date, comprehensive coverage of over 250 individual translated sources, such as ancient texts, inscriptions, and discussions of archaeological and artistic material

Arabs and Empires before Islam collates nearly 250 translated extracts from an extensive array of ancient sources which, from a variety of different perspectives, illuminate the history of the Arabs before the emergence of Islam. Drawn from a broad period between the eighth century BC and the Middle Ages, the sources include texts written in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Persian, and Arabic, inscriptions in a variety of languages and alphabets, and discussions of archaeological sites from across the Near East. More than 20 international experts from the fields of archaeology, classics and ancient history, linguistics and philology, epigraphy, and art history, provide detailed commentary and analysis on this diverse selection of material.

Richly-illustrated with 16 colour plates, 15 maps, and over 70 in-text images, the volume provides a comprehensive, wide-ranging, and up-to-date examination of what ancient sources had to say about the politics, culture, and religion of the Arabs in the pre-Islamic period. It offers a full consideration of the traces which the Arabs have left in the epigraphic, literary, and archaeological records, and sheds light on their relationship with their often more-powerful neighbours: the states and empires of the ancient Near East. Arabs and Empires before Islam gathers together a host of material never before collected into a single volume — some of which appears in English translation for the very first time — and provides a single point of reference for a vibrant and dynamic area of research.

Readership: Scholars and students interested in the history of the Near East and Middle East before the emergence of Islam, including the politics, culture, and religion of the period, from archaeological, epigraphic, linguistic, philological, and art historical perspectives.

Timely, given recent developments noted, e.g., here.

ASOR Glueck Collection

AWOL: ASOR Archives: Nelson Glueck Collection Index. The link to Glueck Collection itself is here.

Alexander the Great in a Jewish mosaic?

HUQOQ AGAIN: Mosaic of Alexander the Great meeting a Jewish priest is the first ever non-biblical scene to be discovered inside a synagogue
  • Artwork was uncovered in a fifth-century synagogue in Huqoq, Israel
    May depict Alexander the Great, based on the presence of elephants
    Scene is the first non-biblical story to be found in an ancient synagogue
    Depictions of Biblical hero Samson are also part of the decorative floor

Although I have mentioned this mosaic before, I don't think I have highlighted the details of this particular interpretation of it:

The largest top strip contains the scene showing a meeting between two men, who perhaps represent the legendary warrior and a Jewish high priest.

In the scene, a bearded soldier wearing battle dress and a purple cloak leads a bull by the horns, followed by other soldiers and elephants with shields tied to their sides.

He is meeting with a grey-haired, bearded elderly man wearing a ceremonial white tunic and mantle, accompanied by young men with sheathed swords, also in ceremonial clothes.

It's thought the warrior in the rare non-Biblical scene is Alexander the Great becaise of a procession of elephants (pictured). But Professor Magness said the identification of the figures in this mosaic is unclear because there are no stories in the Hebrew Bible involving elephants

Professor Magness said the identification of the figures in this mosaic is unclear because there are no stories in the Hebrew Bible involving elephants.

‘Battle elephants were associated with Greek armies beginning with Alexander the Great, so this might be a depiction of a Jewish legend about the meeting between Alexander and the Jewish high priest,’ she said.

‘Different versions of this story appear in the writings of Flavius Josephus and in rabbinic literature.’
HT Sarah Veale at Invocatio.

Josephus indeed tells a story about Alexander the Great meeting the Jewish High Priest, whom he had seen beforehand in a dream. In this story, the High Priest showed Alexander the biblical book of Daniel and Alexander, believing (correctly) that some of the oracles in the book were about him, was very pleased. It's a nice story (which you can read here along with some Livius commentary), but it's the sort of thing that someone would have come up with whether it happened or not, and there are historical problems. Not least of these, of course, is that the book of Daniel had not yet been written in Alexander's time.

Naturally, the historicity or not of the story has no bearing on whether it is depicted on this late-antique mosaic.

I don't know anything about the rabbinic versions of the story, so I won't try to comment on them here.

Background on Huqoq and its mosaics is here and many links.

UPDATE: Thanks to the readers who sent me the Talmudic reference b. Yoma 69a, which tells the story of Alexander's meeting with the High Priest Simon the Just. You can read a translation of the passage in a book edited by Lawrence Schiffman here. The passage by Josephus (Antiquities 11.321-47) is translated immediately before it.

Strange on Shikhin

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Shikhin Excavations with James R. Strange (Brian Leport).
The excavation at Shikhin is directed by Prof. James R. Strange of Samford University. In addition to Prof. Strange, Drs. Mordecai Aviam (the Associate Director), David Fiensy, Dennis E. Groh, and Prof. Strange’s father, the legendary James F. Strange, provided valuable oversight and insight into the work. Each of these individuals were informative, telling us anything we wanted to know about Shikhin, its significance, and how this site relates to nearby Sepphoris, the site that James F. Strange supervised for many years. When the editors of Ancient Jew Review asked me if I’d be willing to give a report on a couple of the sites I visited, Shikhin was one of the first to come to mind. I contacted Prof. Strange asking him if he’d be willing to answer some interview questions and he was happy to oblige. ...
Past PaleoJudaica posts on Shikhin are here and here.

More on the Smithsonian's Palmyra exhibition

PALMYRA WATCH: Palmyra: Ruins that inspired the architecture of power (Jane O'Brien, BBC News, Washington).
What do the ruins of an ancient Roman city in Syria and some of the most iconic buildings in Washington and London have to do with each other? A new exhibit aims to connect US audiences with antiquities under fire in Syria's civil war.
The Palmyra exhibition at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery was noted last month here. Additional background on Palmyra, its ancient history, and its current fate is here and links.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Panaino, Sidera Viva

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Ancient Iranian and Zoroastrian Astral Mythology, Astronomy and Astrology. Notice of a new book: Panaino, Antonio. 2014. Sidera Viva. Studi Iranici di Storia della Mitologia Astrale, dell’Astronomia e dell’Astrologia Antica. (Ed.) Andrea Gariboldi, Paolo Ognibene & Velizar Sadovski. . 2 vols. Milano: Mimesis.

Pluto and the Mandaeans

MANDAEAN (MANDEAN) WATCH: How 'Mordor' and 'Cthulhu' found their way onto Pluto and its moons (Andrew Freeman, Mashable). NASA has been getting some help from the public to name newly discovered features on Pluto and Charon. The rules:
According to official rules of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) — the governing body that assigns official scientific monikers to planets and other solar system bodies — land features on Charon will be named after "destinations and milestones of fictional space and other exploration," among other things.

FFeatures on Pluto itself, however, will earn monikers from the underworld, picked from among the world’s mythologies, including gods, goddesses and dwarfs associated with the underworld.
Tolkien and Lovecraft have been drawn on, but so has Mandaean mythology:
In addition, another land feature is known as Krun, named after an overlord of the Underworld in the Mandaean faith. According to the Our Pluto website, which was the venue for public voting on Pluto names, the Mandaeans are "the last surviving Gnostic group from late antiquity."
Some past posts on Mandaean and the Mandaeans are here, here, and here, and links.

UPDATE (28 July): James McGrath, expert in all things Mandaean, has additional information here.

The Lewis-Gibson Collection

CAMBRIDGE DIGITAL LIBRARY: Lewis-Gibson. 1,700 medieval fragments from the Cairo Geniza, now part of the collection jointly owned by the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford.

HT the Talmud Blog on Facebook.

There are endless past PaleoJudaica posts on the Cairo Geniza: see here, here, here, and link. And there is more on the Lewis-Gibson sisters (Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson) here and links.

More on McKendrick et al. (eds.), Codex Sinaiticus

MEDIEVAL MANUSCRIPTS BLOG: Codex Sinaiticus: New Perspectives on the Ancient Biblical Manuscript. The book was also noted here.

Coins of Cyprus

PHOENICIAN WATCH: Ancient Coins of Cyprus (Mike Markowitz, CoinWeek). Cyprus had a significant Phoenician presence and this survey includes some interesting Phoenician coins with images of Astarte and Melqart.