Saturday, August 15, 2015

Ethiopic manuscripts at Princeton

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Ethiopic Manuscripts in the Princeton University Library (Don Skemer).
The Princeton University Library is fortunate to have one of the largest collections of Ethiopic manuscripts outside Ethiopia, including nearly 180 codices and more than 500 magic scrolls, as they are called.
One of them is a manuscript of 1 Enoch used by R. H. Charles in his 1893 edition.

HT Ancient Jew Review. For more on the ancient Ethiopian city of Axum (Aksum) see here and links. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Eshel on the Decalogue

ESTHER ESHEL: The Oldest Known Copy of the Decalogue? A careful examination of the three oldest copies of the Decalogue—4QDeutn, 4QPaleoExodusm, and the Nash Papyrus—surprisingly shows that none of them reflects the Masoretic Text (

HT Ancient Jew Review.

St Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai

St Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai: Its Manuscripts and their Conservation PAPERS GIVEN IN MEMORY OF PROFESSOR IHOR ŠEVČENKO
Available from the Saint Catherine's Foundation website but not, apparently, from Amazon. While you're at the link, look to the right to see the Featured Manuscript of the Month link. So far two very interesting Syriac manuscripts from the Monastery are featured: Sinai Syriac 16 and Sinai Syriac 30.

HT Alin Suciu on Facebook. More on St. Catherine's Monastery and its precious repository of manuscripts is here and links.


EXHIBITION: Passages is a traveling museum exhibition featuring "biblical artifacts depicting the history of the Bible." It is associated with the Green Collection's Bible Museum, which is currently under construction in Washington D.C. The exhibition is currently running in Santa Clarita, California. The Los Angeles Daily News reports that some Dead Sea Scroll fragments are included, but I cannot find any further specifics.

Past posts relating to the Green Collection are here and links.

Review of Alter, Strong As Death is Love

A NEW VOLUME OF ALTER'S TRANSLATION: Found in translation: giving voice to those who wrote ‘Hebrew Bible.’ In his work on many books, Robert Alter aims to translate not just the poem but the poet (Eavan Boland, The Irish Times).
For almost two decades Alter has pushed ahead, bringing out volumes of this translation with dizzying speed. In 1999 it was The David Story, a translation of the first books of Samuel, offering the powerful narrative of a Biblical anti-hero. In 2004 it was The Five Books of Moses; in 2007 The Book of Psalms; in 2009 The Book of Genesis. With hardly time to draw breath in 2010 he added The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. And now comes this new title. Strong As Death is Love covering the books of Ruth, Esther, The Song of Songs, Jonah and Daniel. All the volumes carry as their sub-title A Translation with Commentary.

And the role of the translator? In an interview Alter said, “I want to try to
convey in English what I think were the actual values and mind-sets of the ancient Hebrew writers, which is also, in the poetry, inseparable from the concreteness of their language and the compactness and rhythmic force of the poetry they wrote.”
Background on Professor Alter and his translation of the Hebrew Bible is here with many links.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Schwartz on ancient Jewish History, part three

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW VIDEO: Seth Schwartz | Part Three: Criticism. Part one is noted here and part two here.

Dead Sea Scrolls in a cellar in Massachusetts

The Dead Sea Scrolls: Worcester West Side Secret (Joshua Lyford, Worcester Magazine). A detailed account of a little-known episode in the early history of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Worth a read.
There are many footnotes to a fascinating story like that of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the journey they embarked on is interesting from start to finish, but a particularly thoughtful note should be made of the years before the scrolls became so renowned. While their owner tried to drum up interest to sell them, four of the most crucial Dead Sea Scrolls spent five years locked in a safe, housed in the cellar of a quaint, tidy home on Worcester’s west side. From this home, in the shadow of Bancroft Tower, those four scrolls would prove to be just as ancient and intriguing as Samuel believed, and eventually captured world’s imagination.
More on Mar Samuel is here and more on Kando is here and links.

A Northwest-Semitic seal excavated in ... Russia?

THE DAILY MAIL (WILL STEWART): Treasure trove of warrior jewellery unearthed in Russia: Ancient grave belongs to woman who worshipped fire 2,000 years ago
  • The woman was a Sarmatian from the first century AD in southern Russia
  • More than 100 arrowheads and a horse harness confirm she was a warrior
  • A gem with an ancient inscription in Aramaic was found buried with her
  • A hiding place in the grave contained a collection of knives and a sword
A stunning trove of ancient jewellery has been found in the grave of a noble warrior woman dating back to the first century AD.

The female fighter was a Sarmatian - a group of people who worshipped fire and whose prominent role in warfare was seen as an inspiration for the Amazons of Greek mythology.

And the discovery of the intact burial mound in Russia has been described as 'priceless' by archaeologists.

The Sarmatians were nomadic people who migrating from central Asia to the Ural mountains between the 6th and 4th century BC.


Next to her skull, gold earrings with pendant chains were found, while a bronze mirror was close to her shoulder.

'The collar of her dress was decorated with stamped buckles of gold leaf in the form of a stylised ram's head,' he said.

'Her sleeves were embroidered with colourful beads combined with gold triangular and hemispherical plaques.

'On each hand - a gold bracelet. On her breasts were various beads, among which was a gem with a single-line Phoenician or early Aramaic inscription. At her pelvis lay a gold vial.'


Below is the photo of the seal. The caption reads "The female fighter was a Sarmatian, a people who worshipped fire and whose prominent role in warfare was seen as an inspiration for the Amazons of Greek mythology. A gem with a single-line Phoenician or early Aramaic inscription was found buried with her (pictured), placed on her chest."

This is a stone seal written in the Paleo-Hebrew script. As far as I know, this type of seal was only made between the eighth and fifth centuries BCE. (But my knowledge of the subject is not particularly up to date.) It is in one of the Northwest Semitic languages, but I don't know enough about the paleography of this period to identify whether it is Hebrew, Phoenician, Aramaic, Ammonite, Edomite, or Moabite. Someone who knows the scripts better than I do could probably discern the national origin of this one and its date to within a century or so.

The letters are inscribed backwards on the seal so that the mirror-image imprint it leaves will read in the right direction. This is normal for such objects. The first letter of the inscription was inscribed last and it looks squashed, probably because the stonemason miscalculated and didn't leave enough room for it. The seal reads לאלישב (l’lyšb), "belonging to Elyashiv." Elyashiv (Eliashib) is attested as a man's name in the Hebrew Bible in Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, and on at least a couple of 7th-century BCE Hebrew seals. I can't find it in any of the other languages, but I haven't looked comprehensively and some of them may well have used it too.

The big question is, what was this turn-of-the-era Sarmatian woman in Russia doing with a Northwest Semitic seal from four to eight centuries before her time? The report is that it was scientifically excavated, so forgery or salting seem exceedingly unlikely. I guess it could have been a family heirloom. It certainly raises other questions about trade between Eastern Europe and the Middle East from the late Iron Age to the Hellenistic period. Assuming this report is accurate in its particulars, this is an extraordinary discovery and I think we shall be hearing more about it.

UPDATE (19 August): More here.

UPDATE (22 August): Still more here and here.

Google Alphabet

PHOENICIAN WATCH: ‘Alphabet,’ From Ancient Greece to Google. By betting on ‘Alphabet’ as the name for its new parent company, Google is relying on a word that has only existed in English for about five centuries (BEN ZIMMER, WSJ).
By betting on “Alphabet,” Google is relying on a word that we all learn as children but has only existed in English for about five centuries. In Old English, if you wanted to refer to the alphabet, you would use a word formed from the first four letters: “a-be-ce-de.” In Middle English this was shortened to “a-be-ce,” or as we would now spell it, “ABC.”

Around 1500, when classical scholarship was all the rage, English borrowed the Latin “alphabetum,” which in turn came from the Greek “alphabetos,” derived from the names of the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, “alpha” and “beta.”

Those names can trace their lineage back to the ancient Phoenician writing system. The “alpha” equivalent was shaped like a cow’s head, named after the Phoenician word for “ox.” Similarly, “beta” meant “house” and was shaped like one. In the alphabetic system, those characters came to stand for the initial sounds of the pictured words.
I think the name "Google" is more clever, but we'll see.

The Jews of Kaifeng

TRAVEL: Tracing ancient Jewish influences in China (Eileen Wingard, San Diego Jewish World).
SAN DIEGO — A highlight of my recent trip to China was in Xian, once the largest city in the ancient world and capital of China throughout 11 dynasties. After arriving by bullet train from Beijing, we had dinner at a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant and spent the evening listening to three speakers whose subject was the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng, a city on our original itinerary, but cancelled due to security reasons.

Professor Xu Xin , China’s leading scholar on the Jews of China, as well as the founder and director of the Diane and Guilford Glazer Institute for Jewish and Israel Studies at Nanjing University, gave us an overview of the history of the Jewish community of Kaifeng. Although historians may differ on the exact beginning of Jewish immigration to China, some dating the first arrival of Jews as far back as 220 BCE, what is definitely known is that during the Tang Dynasty, 618-906 CE, a poem and other records confirm the presence of Jews. Also, it is known that the Jews came on the Silk Road as traders.

In fact, a document, written on paper in a Judeo-Persian language, using Hebrew characters, was found on the Chinese-Tibet border. At that time, paper was only produced in China, so the Jewish trader had obviously been to China. These were Mizrahi Jews from Persia and Babylon. Some may also have come from India. Keifeng was then the major metropolis at the beginning of the Silk Road.

I would take that 220 BCE arrival date with a grain of salt, but the Jewish community in Kaifeng does seem to have been there by around 900 CE and it still exists today. Ms. Wingard heard a lecture by one of its leaders when she was in Xian. Past posts on the Jews of Kaifeng are here, here, and here. And there's more on that Chinese Judeo-Persian text here.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

More on the floorboard mikveh

SOME BACKGROUND: Ein Karem: One village, three religions (Mordechai Goldman, Al-Monitor).
In early July, an ancient mikveh, a ritual bath in which observant Jews dip to purify themselves, was discovered in the pastoral Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Karem. The 2,000-year-old mikveh, which would have been filled with rainwater, was found during renovation work on a home in the neighborhood. It was well preserved, down to some stone and clay tools on the pool floor, and probably served its owners at the time of the Second Temple. The unearthing of the mikveh strengthens the evidence of a Jewish link to ancient Ein Karem, the Arab-Palestinian and Christian links having already been established.


Archaeological evidence of the Jewish connection to Ein Karem has only been found in recent years, beginning with the 2004 discovery of a mikveh in the village. Amirav had found a cistern in the John the Baptist Church that turned out to be a purification bath. That discovery drew international attention and was the first evidence of a Jewish link to ancient Ein Karem, a connection that until then had only been cited in texts.

Now a second mikveh, large and impressive, has been found. “We were very excited by this discovery,” said Uriyah, a poet who lives with her partner, Tal, and their six children in the house where the mikveh was found. Requesting that her full name not be divulged to avoid droves of curious tourists, she told Al-Monitor, “This connected me very much to our Jewish heritage. For us, every descent into the space of the mikveh is a kind of descent through the tunnel of time.”

Tal, on the other hand, is unmoved by the Jewish aspect of the finding. “Religion doesn’t mean anything to me,” he said. “There’s an archeological find here, and that’s what’s important.”

I noted the discovery here back in early July. This article doesn't add a great deal, apart from the mention of the 2004 discovery and the brief interview with the owners of the house. But it did not register with me at the time that the find was in the neighborhood of Ein Karem (Ein Kerem). Back in 2011 this area was in the news concerning a controvery over the handling of Second Temple-era architecture at a building site. And some shadowy rumors involving treasure from the Copper Scroll were also involved. See here and here for the story.

I seemed to have missed the reports of the discovery of a mikveh in Ein Kerem in 2004.

Schwartz on ancient Jewish History, part two

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW VIDEO: Seth Schwartz | Part Two: 70 C.E. For part one, etc., see here.

New AWOL index

AWOL: New Index of Online Publications: The AWOL Index. Looks very useful.

Nearly $33K for sacred cow

RED HEIFER PROJECT UPDATE: Jewish Temple group raising $125K online to breed sacred cow (Brian Schaefer, JTA).
It’s been nearly two millennia since the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, bringing to an end the priestly period of Jewish history and commencing the Diaspora.

A third Temple has been prophesied, and in preparation for the messiah, nonprofit Jewish group The Temple Institute wants to build it.

Last month, the institute launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo with the goal of raising $125,000 to breed a red heifer, a requirement for Temple purification rituals. It has already raised nearly $33,000 from some 500 donors.

That's close to $20,000 raised in the last four weeks. Additional background on the project can be found here and links.

Obituary for Patricia Crone

THE TIMES HIGHER: Patricia Crone, 1945-2015. A scholar who transformed our understanding of early Islam has died (MATTHEW REISZ).
In her first book, Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World (with Michael Cook, 1977), Professor Crone drew on archaeological discoveries and contemporary Aramaic, Armenian, Greek and Syriac sources to cast a critical light on traditional Muslim accounts of the origins of the religion. This led to a view of early Islam as a form of tribal rebellion, deeply linked to Judaism, against the surrounding Byzantine and Persian empires – a controversial interpretation which has been debated and developed ever since.
Background here. And some other recent indications that our understanding of the earliest history of Islam may be due for revision are noted here and links.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bloggers’ meet-up at AAR/SBL

JAMES MCGRATH: Bloggers’ Dinner at AAR/SBL in Atlanta. The proposed date and time are Sunday evening November 22nd, around 5pm. That probably works for me, but I haven't sorted out my exact schedule for Sunday evening yet. I will stop by if I can.

Schwartz on ancient Jewish History, part one

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW VIDEO: Seth Schwartz | Part One: Making the Case for Ancient Jewish History. I noted his recent book here.

Archaeological sites to see in Israel

ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES IN ISRAEL WORTH VISITING are the subject of two recent articles. First:

Israel’s Top Archaeological Sites ( A top-ten list containing many of the usual suspects. No doubt other slightly different top-tens are possible, but all of these are indeed worth seeing.

Time travel: 10 Israeli archeological sites you should visit this summer. From ancient ruin to medieval forts, these sites are full of history and breathtaking views (Yeruham Kantman, YnetNews).
A 2,000 year-old mikveh, discovered recently during construction work done on a new children's playground in Jerusalem, gave us a rare peek into the Second Temple era (1st century AD). But the many archeological sites scattered around Israel aren't just the purview of historians and archeologists – they hide within them a chance for the public at large to explore the past and get a glimpse of what life was like in the land of Israel hundreds, and even thousands, of years ago.

The guides at Keshet Yonatan, a center dedicated to educating the public about historical travel in Israel, in cooperation with the Eshkolot forum, have gathered a list of archeological sites open to the public. Family, groups, and individuals can all take trips to these sites.

This is a more creative list and most people will not be familiar with many of the sites, but they all sound interesting.

Oh, and more on that recently discovered mikveh is here and links.

Trump, menstruation, and ancient Judaism

CANDIDA MOSS: Weak Men Like Trump Have Always Feared Menstruation (The Daily Beast). Mr. Trump obligingly continues to provide fodder for PaleoJudaica posts. His recent comment about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, whatever its original authorial intent may have been, has brought menstruation some media attention. Professor Moss now provides us with one of her informative essays on attitudes toward it in world religious traditions, including ancient Judaism. Excerpt:
In the Jewish religious imagination, blame for what is actually the primordial “curse” is often placed squarely on Eve. Eve is seen as responsible for all of the unpleasantness of the reproductive process: menstruation and childbirth included.
Is this really true? Eve is not mentioned outside of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible. Christianity certainly makes much of this curse and Eve's part in it in Christian interpretation of the "Fall" of humanity (see already 1 Timothy 2:11-15), but I am not familiar with ancient Jewish texts that explicitly blame Eve for the unpleasantness of things like menstruation and childbirth. There is, of course Life of Adam and Eve 33-35 and Apocalypse of Moses 25, but I do not accept these Adam and Eve pseudepigrapha to be Jewish works and in this I am in good company. I am not saying that Professor Moss is wrong, but I know of no such ancient and persuasively Jewish texts and I would like to see specifics. Anyhow, to continue:
In the ritual regulations that make up the book of Leviticus, menstrual blood turns out to be something of a problem. According to the book’s priestly author, menstruation is a cause of ritual impurity. Not only is a menstruating woman impure for seven days, but anyone who touches her is unclean “until the evening” (Lev. 15:19). Sex is squarely out of the question (unless you want to bring seven days of impurity on yourself) and, in the meantime, everything she sits or lies on also becomes unclean. The impurity associated with menstruation—much like the impurity associated with skin diseases or emissions of semen—was communicable through touch.

The prohibition on contact with menstruating women is not found only in Judaism. The Koran prohibits intercourse during menses (2:222) and the Hindu Laws of Manu indicate that a woman becomes purified from menstruation when she bathes at the conclusion of her period (6:66). Bathing post-period appears to have been the cross-cultural cure-all, but until menses were over women were contagious. Until 2005, Hindu women in Nepal were forced to live in cow-sheds during their period. To this day some traditional members of Orthodox Christianity abstain from receiving Holy Communion during menstruation.

But this is about more than either cleanliness or ritual purity. The idea that menstrual blood poses a health risk is evident in a variety of cultures. The ancient Jewish collection of rabbinic opinions known as the Talmud reads, “If a menstruant woman passes between two [men], if it is at the beginning of her menses, she will slay one of them, and if it is at the end of her menses, she will cause strife between them” (b. Pesaḥ. 111a). Watch out, Chris Wallace and Brett Baier.

Another exhibition in Philly

FROM THE GREEN COLLECTION: Rare biblical artifacts coming to Pa. Convention Center (Alison Burdo, Philadelphia Business Journal).
Pilgrims heading to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families and papal visit will have a chance to see fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls and other rare biblical artifacts dating back hundreds of years at an exhibit at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

The display, Verbum Domini II: God's Word Goes Out to the Nations, will be free to the public and available at the Convention Center from Sept. 21 through Sept. 26, which is the day Pope Francis is set to arrive in Philadelphia.

The exhibit showcases more than 80 items from one of the world's largest private collections of rare biblical texts and artifacts, which are a part of the Museum of the Bible's Green Collection and were originally shown at the Vatican, according to World Meeting of Families organizers.

The following are among the items to be displayed:
  • Fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Five pages from the Bodmer Psalms Codex, a near-complete copy of the book of Psalms in Greek on papyrus from the third to fourth century CE
  • Pages from the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, which contains Christian texts from the sixth to eighth century
More on the Bodmer Psalms Codex is here. More on the Codex Climaci Rescriptus is here and links. And follow the links in those posts for more on the Green Collection. Another museum exhibition of Bible-related artifacts opening in Philadephia, also in honor of the Pope's visit, is noted here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

New AOS website

AWOL: New Website of The American Oriental Society.

Aleppo Codex online

WEBSITE: The Aleppo Codex Online (Ben-Zvi Institute, Jerusalem).

HT reader Gerald Rosenberg. There are many past posts on the Aleppo Codex, whose fortunes have been tied to the Ben Zvi Institute during the manuscript's turbulent history. It is now in the Shrine of the Book in the Israel Museum. Background here and links.

More on those "early" Qur'an manuscripts

GABRIEL SAID REYNOLDS: Variant readings. The Birmingham Qur’an in the context of debate on Islamic origins (TLS). A very interesting essay on the implications of the recently announced Birmingham fragments of the Qur'an and their early radiocarbon date. I will restrict myself to a couple of excerpts, but it's worth reading in full.
Yet the very early dating of the Birmingham manuscript (568–645) – almost certainly before the reign of Uthman – casts doubt on the traditional story. The Birmingham manuscript does not appear to be a scrap, or a variant version kept by some companion, which somehow escaped the Caliph’s burning decree. It appears to be the standard Qur’an which Muslims attribute to Uthman. In other words, the dates of the Birmingham manuscript are not simply early. They’re too early. Instead of rejoicing, the news about this manuscript should lead to head-scratching.

Moreover, the extremely early date range of the Birmingham text (most of which is before even the date when Muhammad is said to have begun his preaching) seems to confirm the early dating of other manuscripts. Among the manuscripts that were discovered in 1972 when repair work was being done on the ceiling of the Great Mosque of Sanaa in Yemen was a rare Qur’anic palimpsest – that is, a manuscript preserving an original Qur’an text that had been erased and written over with a new Qur’an text. This palimpsest has been analysed by a German husband and wife team, Gerd and Elisabeth Puin, by Asma Hilali of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, and later by Behnam Sadeghi of Stanford University. Sadeghi benefited from the use of X-Ray fluorescence imaging to render certain leaves of the lower (that is, original) text of the Qur’anic palimpsest visible. What all of these scholars have discovered is remarkable: the earlier text of the Qur’an contains numerous variants to the standard consonantal text of the Qur’an.


The upshot of all of these early dates is that the Qur’an may very well date earlier than Uthman, possibly much earlier. It may be time to rethink the story of the Qur’an’s origins, including the traditional dates of Muhammad’s career. In other words, what observers have celebrated as something like evidence of the traditional story of Islam’s origins (the New York Times article argued that the manuscript “offered a moment of unity, and insight, for the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims”) may actually be, when considered carefully, evidence that the story of Islam’s origins is quite unlike what we have imagined.
If a prominent specialist like Professor Reynolds wants to rethink the dates of Muhammad's career, it sounds as though there is considerable work left to do on the history of the origins of Islam. And the relationships of late-antique Judaism, Eastern Christianity, and Byzantine Christianity to Islamic origins remain pieces of the puzzle. Watch this space.

Background here and links. Related post here.

Lyons on reception history

Some Thoughts on Defining Reception History and the Future of Biblical Studies

The task of the biblical scholar is to read a given interpretation with a degree of empathy, a certain amount of humility, and, if appropriate, with a willingness to interact critically and/or polemically with what they find. We should accept that the biblical scholar offering an interpretation of how, say, Paul and his audience understood Romans in their context is as enmeshed as the biblical scholar attempting to account for, say, Johnny Cash’s interpretation of the Bible, or the story of Jephthah’s daughter’s reception by the AmaNazaretha in South Africa.

See Also: Reception History and Biblical Studies (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015).

By William John Lyons
University of Bristol
August 2015

Women's vows in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Jewish Legal Basis for Male Dominion Over Vows by Women? It’s in the Bible. Bridging the abstract simplicity of divine pronouncements to the practical mess of everyday life.
This week’s Daf Yomi reading answered a question that I have been wondering about ever since we began reading Tractate Nedarim two months ago: Why is this tractate part of Seder Nashim, the division of the Talmud whose name means “women”? The reason was perfectly clear for the first two tractates in Nashim: Yevamot, which dealt primarily with levirate marriage, and Ketubot, which focused on marriage contracts. Both of those areas of law were directly concerned with the relationships between women and men. But the subject of Nedarim is vows—how to take them and how to dissolve them—and so far there has been nothing obviously gendered about this topic. The assumption governing the Talmudic debates has been that both men and women can and do take vows; so, why is Nedarim part of this section of the Talmud?

Chapter 10 of the tractate, which Daf Yomi readers explored this week, suggests the connection between vow-taking and marriage. It is not, as we might expect, that marriage itself is a vow. Though we speak of “wedding vows” in English, under Jewish law it is clear that marriage is not a vow or oath, but a contract between two parties. Rather, the key point is that husbands have the legal power to annul vows made by their wives. ...

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ancient milestones

ASOR BLOG: Milestones in Late Antique Palaestinae and Arabia (Marlena Whiting).

Burke (ed.), Forbidden Texts on the Western Frontier

TONY BURKE: 2013 York Christian Apocrypha Symposium Papers Now Available.
The proceedings from the 2013 York University Christian Apocrypha Symposium—Forbidden Texts on the Western Frontier: The Christian Apocrypha from North American Perspectives—is now available for order from Wipf and Stock Publishers. The book can be purchased from other retailers (Amazon and even on Kindle) in a few months. Copies will be available also at the 2015 Symposium in September. My thanks go out to all the contributors for their work in getting the papers to press. The table of contents is as follows: ...
I noted the conference back in 2012-2013 here, here, here, here, and here.

Cross-file under New Book.

DABIR launched

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Newly launched peer-reviewed journal for Iranian Studies. I noted back in the spring that DABIR was being launched soon. The first issue is now available. Follow the link for TOC and (free) access information.

Mussolini's catacombs in the news

UPDATE: Mussolini's bunker opens to the public (The Straits Times).
ROME • Deep beneath the historic Villa Torlonia, where Benito Mussolini lived for nearly two decades, a wine cellar repurposed in 1941 as a bunker to protect the Fascist leader was recently opened to the public.

Even in a city stratified with centuries of history, the damp underground space is a telling sign of how deeply Italy's relatively recent past can stay buried.

The opening of the bunker last autumn was the latest step in the ongoing restoration of the spraw- ling villa compound, which the aristocratic Torlonia family rented to Mussolini and his family from 1925 until his arrest and death in 1943.

I note this story because there are ancient Jewish catacombs underneath Mussolini's villa and since at least 2004 there have been plans to restore them and open them to the public alongside a Holocaust museum. It's been more than two and a half years since I heard anything about them, but this article says the following:
The villa's grounds also contain ancient Jewish catacombs discovered in 1918 and not open to the public. It was at Villa Torlonia in 1938 that Mussolini announced racial laws stripping Jews of citizenship and removing them from many professions.

The Casino Nobile now features a small museum dedicated to the Roman School of anti-Fascist artists active between the 1920s and 1940s, including the writer and painter Carlo Levi.

Today, plans are in the works to build a Holocaust museum in a lot adjacent to the villa.
So the Holocaust museum is still planned, but I've not heard anything about the opening of the catacombs for some time. As I said before, I hope they are still on the agenda.

Background here and links.

Brill MyBook

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: “Brill MyBook” – Print-on-Demand from Brill (Tommy Wasserman, ETC Blog). This seems like both a welcome development and the way of the future.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Mapping the Ancient Jewish Diaspora

AWOL: Mapping the Ancient Jewish Diaspora: 117-650 ce. A project at Haifa University.

Wolfe, The Fabric of Religious Life in Medieval Ashkenaz

The Fabric of Religious Life in Medieval Ashkenaz (1000-1300)
Creating Sacred Communities

Jeffrey R. Woolf, Bar Ilan University
In The Fabric of Religious Life in Medieval Ashkenaz, Jeffrey R. Woolf presents the first integrated presentation of the ideals and beliefs that comprised the self-image and worldview of Ashkenazic Jews in the Central and High Middle Ages (900-1300). Through careful examination of a wide range of sources (legal, customal, liturgical, artistic), Woolf shows how religious practice played a dual role in creating and sustaining Jewish life in a hostile environment. They instilled these values, and recast religious traditions to reflect them.

The author demonstrates how hitherto underappreciated ideals such as Purity, Sanctity, and a palpable sense of Divine In-Dwelling played a central role in Ashkenazic religiousity and merged to form the texture, or the "Sacred Canopy," of their lives.
A little outside the usual range for PaleoJudaica, but the period and region do come up from time to time.

Smoak, The Priestly Blessing in Inscription and Scripture

The Priestly Blessing in Inscription and Scripture
The Early History of Numbers 6:24-26

Jeremy D. Smoak

Offers a new theory on the meaning and significance of the instructions for the priestly blessing in the book of Numbers
Represents the first major attempt to present a synthesis of the inscriptions from Ketef Hinnom with the biblical text of Numbers 6:24-26 in English
Coming out in October.

There are many past posts on the Ketef Hinnom silver amulets. Start here and follow the links.

Mazdapour et al., The Religions of Ancient Iran

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: The Religions of Ancient Iran. Notice of a new book.

New issue of The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy

JUST OUT: The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy, Volume 23, Issue 2, 2015. A couple of the articles deal with the period relevant for PaleoJudaica. The articles themselves are behind a subscription wall.