Saturday, August 22, 2015

That ancient Hebrew (?) seal from Russia again

AVIV BENEDIX: Mysterious Biblical Hebrew Seal Found in Russia with a Name Mentioned 17 Times in the Bible: Elyashiv – Part 1. Mr. Benedix has another Times of Israel blog post summarizing some of what can now be said about that stone seal bearing a Northwest Semitic inscription which was excavated in Russia in the grave of a first-century Sarmatian woman. Two more posts are promised. This post is a bit tongue in cheek, but the facts are correct. He concludes:
So there we have it. We can now confirm that archaeologists in Russia, excavating the 2,000 year old tomb of a female Sarmatian fighter found an ancient seal written in Ancient Hebrew inscribed with the name of an individual with the exact same name mentioned 17 times in the Holy Bible! ‘But what’, you asked cynically, is this not good enough for you? Do you want to know more? Do you want to know if there is a way of accurately dating the seal using archaeology and linguistics? Do we have any scientific or archaeological evidence or sources of the name Elyashiv? And what the Hell was an ancient seal that originated in Biblical Judea doing in Southern Russia anyways? Find out more in the near future in Part 2 and 3.
As I have already noted, I agree that the seal is probably written in Hebrew. And, yes, a close paleographic analysis could certainly determine the date to within a century and probably also its national origin.

Although I was trained as a Northwest Semitic epigrapher and I still follow the field in a general way, it is not my immediate field of interest and I don't have the time to do the work (script charts and such) myself. Like Mr. Benedix, who emphasizes that he is no expert on this material, I certainly hope someone who specializes in such inscriptions will take some serious interest in this remarkable find soon. There is at least a peer-review article begging to be written on it.

Background here, here, and here.

6 Ezra in Greek

CROSSING BORDERS: FRAGMENT OF EARLY CODEX IN GREEK: BOOK 4(6) EZRA. Greco-Roman Egypt, 4th century CE, found at Oxyrhynchus, 4 x 3 in. (10.2 x 7.6 cm), MS. Gr. bib. g. 3(P)r,. This is part of the Crossing Borders exhibition at the New York Jewish Museum. The manuscript fragment is from the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

HT Shayna Sheinfeld and Liv Ingeborg Lied on Facebook.

For more on 6 Ezra, and on this manuscript, see here. Apart from this Greek fragment, which seems to have circulated as an independent work, and a couple of early Latin quotations, the text of 6 Ezra survives only in a Latin translation attached to the Latin text of 5 Ezra and 4 Ezra as the larger work 2 Esdras. On these see this post.

Some recently discovered or little-known fragments of 4 Ezra in various languages are noted here, here, and here.

And by the way, congratulations to Dr. Sheinfeld, who recently successfully defended her PhD dissertation, "Between Destruction and Community: Crisis of Leadership in Life and Literature after 70," supervised by Gerbern Oegema at McGill University.

McCollum on Judeo-Persian, part one

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: On Judeo-Persian Language and Literature | Part One: State of the Field (Adam McCollum).
“In a two-part series, Dr. Adam McCollum addresses the possibilities for the field of Judeo-Persian language and literature. Part One addresses the state of the field and Part Two includes a helpful bibliography and four text samples.”
Past PaleoJudaica posts dealing with Judeo-Persian are here and here and links.

The watermelon and ancient Judaism

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: The 5,000-Year Secret History of the Watermelon. Ancient Hebrew texts and Egyptian tomb paintings reveal the origins of our favorite summertime fruit. (Mark Strauss).
Much of this epic history has been lost to antiquity. But Harry Paris, a horticulturalist at the Agricultural Research Organization in Israel, has spent years assembling clues—including ancient Hebrew texts, artifacts in Egyptian tombs, and medieval illustrations—that have enabled him to chronicle the watermelon’s astonishing 5,000-year transformation.
There is lots of information about the early cultivation of the watermelon, including more from late-antique Israel, so read it all, but the section on Hebrew texts is as follows. It would have been nice to have chapter and verse references, but at least some specific texts are mentioned.
Paris confirmed that the ancient Hebrew name for watermelons was avattihim. He found a trove of clues in three codices of Jewish Law that were compiled millennia ago in Israel: the Mishnah, Tosefta, and the Jerusalem Talmud. “The rabbis back then didn't sit in the Yeshiva all day,” says Paris “They were out with the people. They knew agriculture.”

The texts on tithing—the mandated practice of putting aside a portion of crops for priests and the poor—were especially informative. For instance, farmers were instructed not to stack avatttihim, but lay them out individually. That’s a key indicator that avattihim were watermelons, since the rinds were notoriously fragile.

The most exciting reveal in the Hebrew writings was a tract, written around 200 A.D., which placed the tithed watermelons in the same category as figs, grapes, and pomegranates.

And what do all of those fruits have in common? They’re sweet. By the third century, the watermelon had graduated from desert crop to dessert. And if sweet watermelons were in Israel, they had likely spread across the Mediterranean.
The modern Hebrew word is the same: אבטיח. More on that here.

Syrian vs. Syriac

SYRIAC WATCH: 42 easily confused English terms that make global travelers look ridiculous (Jake Flanagin, Quartz). This piece explains lots of useful subtleties. I was pleased that the following was among them:
Syrian vs. Syriac

“Syrian” refers to anyone from the modern state of Syria. “Syriac” is a language spoken by groups from Iraq and the Levant known as Assyrians, Arameans, or Chaldeans, who are descended from ancient Mesopotamian peoples. Most Syrians are ethnic Arabs, though some may be Kurdish or Armenian, and most Syrians do not speak Syriac.
It would have been useful to specify that Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic.

Irina Bokova on ISIS

THAT ABOUT SIZES IT UP: UN culture chief: IS systematically destroying heritage sites. Scope of jihadist group’s ‘brutal’ campaign to demolish antiquities unparalleled ‘since the Second World War,’ UNESCO head Irina Bokova says (KARIN LAUB AND ALBERT AJI, AP).

Background here and here and many links.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Gregory et al. (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Apocrypha

The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Apocrypha
Edited by Andrew Gregory and Christopher Tuckett
Tobias Nicklas and Joseph Verheyden

Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology
496 pages | 246x171mm
978-0-19-964411-7 | Hardback | 13 August 2015
Also available as: eBook
Price: £95.00

  • Consists of 25 authoritative essays by leading scholars in the field.
  • Addresses issues and themes that arise in the study of early Christian apocryphal literature.
  • Surveys of the main branches of apocryphal literature, such as gospels, acts, epistles, and apocalypses, considering keys issues that they raise.
  • Contemplates questions such as which ancient readers read early Christian apocrypha, their place in Christian spirituality, and their place in contemporary popular culture and contemporary theological discourse.

The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Apocrypha addresses issues and themes that arise in the study of early Christian apocryphal literature. It discusses key texts including the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Peter, letters attributed to Paul, Peter, and Jesus, and acts and apocalypses written about or attributed to different apostles. Part One consists of authoritative surveys of the main branches of apocryphal literature (gospels, acts, epistles, apocalypses, and related literature) and Part Two considers key issues that they raise. These include their contribution to our understanding of developing theological understandings of Jesus, the apostles and other important figures such as Mary. It also addresses the value of these texts as potential sources for knowledge of the historical Jesus, and for debates about Jewish-Christian relations, the practice of Christian worship, and developing understandings of asceticism, gender and sexuality, etc. The volume also considers questions such as which ancient readers read early Christian apocrypha, their place in Christian spirituality, and their place in contemporary popular culture and contemporary theological discourse.

Readership: Students and scholars of biblical studies, particularly New Testament; of early Christianity.

Larry Hurtado, who notes the book here, has posted his essay in it at his blog: “Who Read Early Christian Apocrypha?”

The above HT Tony Burke on Facebook.

Mandsager on Rabbinic agricultural spaces

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight: John Mandsager.
Mandsager, John. To Stake a Claim: The Making of Rabbinic Agricultural Spaces in the Roman Countryside. Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford University, 2014.

Tekhelet promotional raffle

TRY YOUR LUCK: ‘Ptil Tekhelet’ Renews Monthly Tallit Raffle for Engaged Couples. Engaged Jewish couples can enter to win a prayer shawl tied with the ancient "ptil tekhelet" blue woolen thread (Hana Levi Julian,
Are you engaged to be married, or perhaps there is an upcoming nuptial in your family? If so, the happy couple is eligible to enter a contest to win a prayer shawl tied with the ancient “ptil tekhelet” sky-blue woolen thread.

To enter, just send a wedding invitation to the Ptil Tehkhelet [Sic] organization at The Israeli nonprofit group promotes, educates and produces what is believed to be the authentic “tekhelet” of the ancient Hebrews.

Much more on the ancient biblical tekhelet dye is here and links. As you can see at the link, it seems that the modern attempts to reconstruct the dye are not unproblematical. I mentioned the Ptil Tekhelet Foundation (also spelled P'til Tekhelet) here back in 2003.

More on Khaled al-Asaad

OBITUARY: Khaled al-Asaad: Authority on the antiquities of the Syrian city of Palmyra who was devoted to studying and protecting its treasures (OMAR WARAICH, The Independent). Many additional details about the life and death of this brave man.
When Isis snatched control of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, the man who had devoted his life to protecting its treasures refused to leave. Khaled al-Asaad rebuffed appeals from friends and family concerned about his safety. "Whatever happens," he told his friend, Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria's minister of antiquities, "I cannot go against my conscience."

Al-Asaad ended up paying for his devotion to the ruins of Palmyra with his life. Isis operatives had arrested him twice. The second time, they held him for a month and tried to force him to disclose where the city's treasures were hidden. He steadfastly refused, and was executed with the brutality that has made Isis so globally notorious. They dragged him into a public square before a masked man beheaded him.

Isis did not disclose that al-Asaad had thwarted their attempts at thievery. Instead, they put up signs over his dead body, accusing him of having been the "director of idolatory" and an "apostate" who "attended infidel conferences".

His nephew, Khaled al-Homsi, said the family had tried to convince Asaad to leave Palmyra when Isis seized the site. "We knew they would not leave him alone," he said. "We used to stand together and watch the trenches and the barricades go up … he couldn't stop his tears."

Background here and links.

UPDATE: The New York Times also has an obituary: Syrian Expert Who Shielded Palmyra Antiquities Meets a Grisly Death at ISIS’ Hands (BEN HUBBARD).

Report that Mar Elian monastery has been destroyed

AINA NEWS: ISIS Destroys 5th Century Assyrian Monastery in Syria.
(AINA) -- Photos posted on ISIS social media sites show the destruction of Mar Elian monastery in Qaryatain, Syria, which is near Homs. Qaryatain fell to ISIS on August 6 (AINA 2015-08-07). An estimated 1,400 Syriac Orthodox and 400 Syriac Catholic Assyrians lived in Qaryatain before it fell to ISIS.

Related: Attacks on Assyrians in Syria By ISIS and Other Muslim Groups
The Assyrian monastery was founded in the 5th century A.D. as a Syriac Orthodox Monastery. In the 17th century it became a Syriac Catholic monastery. It was renovated by the head of the ancient Mar Musa al-Habashi monastery, the Jesuit Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio, ten years ago.

I don't know this monastery by sight, but the photos certainly show a substantial building being demolished.

More on the assault of ISIS on the past — and its representatives — is here and here and links. And with special reference to speakers of Aramaic, here. Cross-file under Syriac Watch.

UPDATE: The Daily Mail (John Hall) reports the destruction by ISIS of another ancient Syriac monastery, this one in Iraq:
Another blow to Christianity and civilisation: ISIS destroy 4th Century Mar Benham monastery in Iraq
  • Jihadis used explosives to destroy Mar Benham monastery in Bakhdida
  • Blast reduced the ancient building to rubble according to local residents
  • ISIS seized control of the monastery last summer, expelling resident monks
  • The ancient building was built by Assyrian king Senchareb 1,600 years ago

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Khaled al-Asaad

PALMYRA WATCH: The murder of archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad (Asa'ad) by ISIS in Palmyra has been getting more media attention than I expected or even dared to hope. Many articles have come out in the last day. I will just flag these three:

ISIS Tortures, Beheads Chief Archaeologist of Palmyra. ISIS beheaded the chief archaeologist of the ancient city of Palmyra and hung his headless body there (Hana Levi Julian,
A Syrian source told Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, that Da’esh had interrogated Asa’ad about the located of the treasures from Palmyra. The terrorists murdered him when he refused to cooperate, the source told Doyle, according to a report by The Guardian.

The SANA news agency reported that Asa’ad had discovered several ancient cemeteries, caves and a Byzantine graveyard in the garden of the Palmyra museum. He was also a scholar of Aramaic, the local language before the rise of Islam in the seventh century.
Graphic images posted by IS affiliated social media accounts seem to show the decapitated body of 82-year-old Khaled Asaad, his trademark glasses still visible on his head on the ground.

The head of the Syrian department of antiquities said that the militants took Assad’s dead body from the square and hung it from a Roman column that the former antiquities chief had dedicated his life to restoring.

A sign attached to the pictures being circulated online states that Asaad was executed for overseeing “idols” in Palmyra, attending “infidel” conferences and for staying in touch with his brother and palace officials even after IS took over.

Asaad, it appears, had been taken captive by the militants who had been interrogating him for at least the past month. Media reports indicate that the militants tried to furnish information from Asaad about Palmyra’s hidden treasures, and his refusal to provide this information is what prompted his sudden execution.
This article continues with many photos of the ancient site of Palmyra.

Khaled al-Asaad profile: the Howard Carter of Palmyra. The historian beheaded by Isis was a key figure in Syrian archaeology and has been compared with the discoverer of Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt (Caroline Davies and Kareem Shaheen, The Guardian).
Asaad was involved in early excavations of Palmyra and the restoration of parts of the ancient city. The 82-year-old played a role in evacuating the contents of the city museum ahead of Isis taking control, which, Azm said, meant he faced certain arrest when the militants arrived.


[Khalil] Hariri, who is married to Asaad’s daughter, Zenobia, said his father-in-law had been a member of Bashar al-Assad’s ruling Ba’ath party since 1954. He is survived by six sons and five daughters, he said.
In general I have no love for Baathists, but this one died with honor.

Background here and links.


YONA SABAR: Hebrew word of the week: Hazzay (weather) forecaster. From the same Hebrew root as a biblical term for "seer" or "visionary." Cool.

More on that ancient Hebrew (?) seal from Russia

MOSAIC MAGAZINE: An Ancient Warrior Woman in Southern Russia with a (Possibly) Hebrew Seal. Someone else has been reading PaleoJudaica. I wonder when the mainstream media is going to catch on to the remarkable story they have sitting in front of them.

HT Aviv Benedix on Facebook. Background here and here.

Graffiti galore in Elijah's cave

Ancient Inscriptions in Elijah the Prophet's Cave Are in Danger. The Haifa grotto, sacred going back to the days of Baal, had been so neglected it even became a venue for bar mitzvahs. Only now is Israel starting to consider protecting it (Ran Shapira, Haaretz).
A small cave sacred from the time of Baal, where Elijah the Prophet is believed to have spent the night before going into battle, boasts inscriptions carved into its walls over millennia – which are in imminent danger of disappearing forever.

"The place should be favourable to my son Kyrillos, who will not be affected by fever anymore," wrote Elios, apparently an official living in Acre during the Roman era (first or second century BCE). The "fever" may have meant malaria, and the "place" in question was the Cave of Elijah the Prophet, a grotto some 40 meters up the slope of Mount Carmel, smack in the middle of the city of Haifa.

While about it, writing in Greek, Elios added a strict injunction against desecrating the cave.

Neither prior nor subsequent generations evidently thought much of that exhortation. Elios' inscription, a dedication to his son, is just one of about 180 Greek inscriptions, as well as 44 Hebrew, two Arabic, and one Latin, carved into the stone walls of Elijah's Cave. The youngest writing is modern and the oldest apparently dates from the late Roman era of control over the Holy Land.

And there are some late antique carvings of menorahs as well. The connection with Elijah himself is a Byzantine tradition and should be taken with a grain of salt, but the inscriptions and carvings are real enough. Some of the material remains there may also have a connection with Baal worship.

For another traditional cave of Elijah, this one in Syria, see here.

The Ark of the Covenant and the Rastafarians

THIS IS A NEW ONE: The Rastafarian Messiah Guarding the Ark of the Covenant.
The Rastafarian connection to the Jewish nation goes even deeper with their more surprising claim of knowing the location of the Lost Ark of the Covenant. Followers of Selassie in Ethiopia claim they are in possession of the Ark, which they describe as an acacia wood box covered in gold, originally taken by Queen Makeda, also known as the Queen of Sheba, and Menelik, her son by King Solomon. They allegedly removed the Ark from the Temple without Solomon’s knowledge.

The whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant have been unknown since the destruction of the Temple, leaving room for even this Rastafarian theory to be true. Since its abduction by Makeda and Menelik, the Ark is believed to be protected by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which preserves it in the famous cathedral of Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, originally built in the 4th century CE.
I knew about the claims of the Ethiopian Church to have the Ark of the Covenant (see, e.g., here, here, and here), but I did not know of any specific Rastafarian claim on the Ark. A little Googling produces the following. The old Church of St Mary of Zion in Axum goes back to the fourth century, although it has been repeatedly rebuilt. It is where the Ark of the Covenant resides according to the traditions of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In 1955 the Emperor Haile Selassie built the new Church of St. Mary of Zion next to the old church. More details here. So there is a Rastafarian connection to the Ark tradition, albeit a somewhat indirect one.

More on Rastafarianism is here and here and links. More on Axum (Aksum) is here and links. And more on the Ark of the Covenant is here and links.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review of Rabbinic Judaism 18.2

Research Article
Rabbinic Literature and the Christian Scriptures
Author: Jacob Neusner
pp.: 177–191 (15)

Research Article
“And It Was in the Dwelling of Rabbi Joshua bar Peraḥiah”
Author: Daniel J. Frim
pp.: 192–226 (35)

Research Article
The Halakhic Validity of Israel’s Judicial System among Israeli Ultra-Orthodox Halakhic Decisors
Author: Ron S. Kleinman
pp.: 227–259 (33)

Research Article
R. Hayyim Soloveitchik and Academic Talmudic Hermeneutics
Author: Yuval Blankovsky
pp.: 260–280 (21)

Research Article
Visiting Graves of Ẓaddiqim in Yemen
Author: Aharon Gaimani
pp.: 281–300 (20)

God Willing: Im Yirẓeh Hashem—In Sha Allah
Authors: Raphael Jospe and Yonatan Milo
pp.: 301–302 (2)

Book Review
The Marrakesh Dialogues: A Gospel Critique and Jewish Apology from the Spanish Renaissance, written by Carsten L. Wilke
Author: Phillip Bell
pp.: 303–304 (2)
You can read the abstracts for free, but access to the articles is by paid personal or institutional subscription only.

ISIS beheads Syrian archaeologist in Palmyra

PALMYRA WATCH: Islamic State militants behead archaeologist in Palmyra: Syrian official (Reuters).
Islamic State (IS) militants beheaded an antiquities scholar in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra and hung his body on a column in a main square of the historic site, Syria's antiquities chief said on Tuesday.

IS, whose insurgents control swathes of Syria and Iraq, captured Palmyra in central Syria from government forces in May, but are not known to have damaged its monumental Roman-era ruins despite their reputation for destroying artifacts they view as idolatrous under their puritanical interpretation of Islam.

Syrian state antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim said the family of Khaled Asaad had informed him that the 82-year-old scholar who worked for over 50 years as head of antiquities in Palmyra was executed by Islamic State on Tuesday.

Asaad had been detained and interrogated for over a month by the ultra-radical Sunni Muslim militants, he told Reuters.


Background on Palmyra and its fate in the hands of ISIS is here and links. This is not the first time they have used the ruins at the site for execution theatre. And more on ISIS's assault on the past — and its representatives — is here and here and links.

UPDATE: The ASOR Blog has some additional background on the actions of ISIS: Iconoclasm in the ‘Islamic State’ (Lucinda Dirven). (Requires free registration to read in full.)

The D.C. Bible Museum and the IAA

ALLIANCE: D.C. Bible Museum To Borrow Ancient Artifacts From Israel. First displays, when museum branch goes live in 2017, will include glassware, stoneware and a Philistine altar from the Canaanite period (Jewish Business News).
“The Israel Antiquities Authority is thrilled and proud to partner with the Museum of the Bible on this landmark project. Making the archaeological heritage of the Land of Israel and the vital archaeological work conducted by the IAA available and accessible to people around the world is our mission. The rare opportunity to have a long-term exhibition in the U.S. Capital of a large selection of archaeological treasures that were excavated in Israel and illuminate the story of the Bible is remarkable. We hope that the many expected visitors will enjoy the archaeological exhibits and learn about the periods and descriptions of the Bible and the rich and diverse history and the archaeology of the Holy Land,” said Israel Hasson, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
More on the Museum of the Bible (currently under construction in Washington D.C.) and the Green Collection is here and links.

"Four Species" economic woes for Sabbatical year

BUY LOCAL: Despite Rabbinic Support, Israeli ‘Four Species’ Business Anticipates 50% Loss over Shmita Issues (JNi Media/Jewish Press).
( In advance of the upcoming Sukkot holiday season, Israeli distributors of the four species—Etrog (citrus fruit), Lulav (date palm), Hadas (myrtle) and Arava (willow) are expecting the current shmita (fallow) year will take a significant toll on their sales. This is despite well-known and commonly accepted halachic adjudications that allow for the purchase of Israeli-grown produce on the shmita year.

Despite the religious mandate which requires that farming be curbed during this year, leading religious authorities have approved legalistic measures to allow for the purchase of four species grown in the holy land and in so doing limit the economic damage to local Jewish growers and distributors.

More on this year's Shmita (Sabbatical year) is here and links.

BNTC 2015 is coming

IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN: British New Testament Conference 2015 (Larry Hurtado). It's happening this year at the University of Edinburgh on 3-5 September. See you there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

More on that mysterious Russian seal

THE TIMES OF ISRAEL: Mysterious Biblical Seal found in Russia! Top Find of 2015? (Aviv Benedix). Someone else has finally noticed what an important discovery this is. Fortunately, Mr. Benedix was able to turn to PaleoJudaica for the initial decipherment and approximate dating of the inscription.
Disappointingly, after a quick Google Search, I found very little on the topic published in the past few days since news of the incredibly discovery were announced. Most news articles found were just recycling the Daily Mail article and were not interested or didn’t know about its possible Biblical connection.

Not being an expert myself in ancient Semitic languages, I was very happy to find Jim Davila’s fantastic Paleo-Judaica Blog, where Mr. Davila confirms that it is a stone seal written in ancient Hebrew script.
(HT reader Gerald Rosenberg.)

This find is calling out for more attention. Northwest-Semitic epigraphers, where are you?

Last week's PaleoJudaica post, which links to Daily Mail article that announced the find in English, is here and is quoted extensively by Mr. Benedix.

UPDATE (19 August): Victar Josef Mas, commenter to the Times of Israel article, reminds us that the commander of the seventh-century BCE military fortress excavated at Arad was also named Elyashiv. We have many inscriptions from Arad that mention him (cf., e.g., here and here), including three of his seals, one of which you can see here. The name does not seem to have been uncommon, so I doubt that there is any direct connection between Elyashiv of Arad and the Elyashiv of the Russian woman's inscription.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I have not been able to find the name in any of the other languages. That's not conclusive, but it points to the likelihood that the seal bears a Hebrew name.

The Rhetoric of Paul

Convincing Early Christians: The Rhetoric of Paul

Uses of emotion in Paul are usually less extensive, but his descriptions of his hardships at times function to evoke pity or love. His descriptions of those he considers dangerous intend the opposite; they evoke revulsion or at least make them so unattractive (perhaps untrustworthy or selfish) that his readers will not want to associate with them. So arguments that rely on emotion play an important role in his letters. This is not a reason to dismiss them. Rhetoricians of the time regularly noted that arguments from emotion are often the most persuasive.

See Also: Paul: Apostle and Fellow Traveler (Abingdon Press, 2014)

By Jerry L. Sumney
Professor of Biblical Studies
Lexington Theological Seminary
August 2015

Bergerhausen, Digitale Keilschrift | Digital cuneiform

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: From Babylonian to Old Persian Cuneiform. Notice of a new-ish (2014) book.

Blumell and Wayment, Christian Oxyrhynchus

New Book on Christian Oxyrhynchus Texts (Peter J. Gurry, ETC). The book sounds very interesting, but note this:
We asked the publishers for a review copy so that we could report as to whether the book was any good or not, but they said, “Due to the size and cost of this book, we are not able to mail physical copies for review in Britain.” So we don’t know at this point of time whether this book is any good or not. Hence: caveat emptor.
An earlier book on the Oxyrhynchus papyri by L. H. Blumell was noted here a few years ago. Many, many other past posts on the Oxyrhynchus papyri etc. are here and links.

Perrone, Origenes Die neuen Psalmenhomilien

Band 13
Die neuen Psalmenhomilien
Eine kritische Edition des Codex Monacensis Graecus 314

[The New Homilies on the Psalms: A Critical Edition of Codex Monacensis Graecus 314]
Ed. by Perrone, Lorenzo
Series: Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte NF 19

Aims and Scope

The editio princeps of Codex Monacensis Graecus 314, the collection of Origen's Homilies on the Psalms was discovered by Marina Molin Pradel in april 2012. The Munich manuscript is the major text discovery on Origen, seventy years after the find of the Tura papyri in 1941. The 29 homilies provide the original Greek text of four Homilies on Psalm 36, translated by Rufinus into Latin at the beginning of the fifth century, together with twenty-five new sermons. Only parts of them were known through tiny excerpts preserved in the exegetical anthologies of the catenae. The list of the sermons essentially corresponds to the catalogue of Origen's Homilies on the Psalms in Jerome's Letter 33. It includes two homilies on Ps. 15, four on Ps. 36, two on Ps. 67, three on Ps. 73, one on Ps. 74, one on Ps. 75, four on Ps. 76, nine on Ps. 77, two on Ps. 80, and one on Ps. 81. Beyond recovering for us Origen as the great interpreter of the Psalms, the sermons throw new light on his life and thought, and provide insights into the situation of the Church in the third century CE.

The critical text has been edited by Lorenzo Perrone in cooperation with Marina Molin Pradel, Emanuela Prinzivalli and Antonio Cacciari.
Via What's New in Papyrology. PaleoJudaica had several posts on the discovery of the manuscript back in 2012: here, here, here, and here.

Review of McLean, Hellenistic and Biblical Greek

Bradley H. McLean, Hellenistic and Biblical Greek: A Graduated Reader. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. xxxiv, 509. ISBN 9781107686281. $39.99 (pb).

Reviewed by Mark Glen Bilby, Claremont School of Theology (


This text fills a major gap in the available scholarly literature for the pedagogy of Hellenistic Greek, especially for students of Judaism and Christianity in antiquity. While numerous Greek readers, extracts, selections, chrestomathies, and anthologies have appeared over the past few hundred years, none explores the breadth of Jewish and Christian Hellenistic Greek literature more ably, thoroughly, and expertly than does this one. Many readers simply provide excerpts with little in the way of historical and literary introduction, grammatical notes, or vocabulary lists, but McLean provides these for every text. (Indeed, these supplements are so well-written that this reader could easily double as a sourcebook for the study of ancient Judaism and Christianity!) Though many Greek readers are not structured or populated with developmental educational concerns in mind, this one is carefully constructed to start simple, work gradually up to much more difficult samples, and build cumulative vocabulary competency throughout. And while other readers typically select from a narrow range of texts, whether in terms of canonicity, authorship, or genre, McLean’s selections prove diverse in all of these respects.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Werlin, Ancient Synagogues of Southern Palestine, 300-800 C.E.

Ancient Synagogues of Southern Palestine, 300-800 C.E.
Living on the Edge

Steven H. Werlin
Following the failure of the Bar-Kokhba revolt in the second century, the majority of the Jewish population of Palestine migrated northward away from Jerusalem to join the communities of Jews in Galilee and the Golan Heights. Although rabbinic sources indicate that from the second century onward the demographic center of Jewish Palestine was in Galilee, archaeological evidence of Jewish communities is found in the southern part of the country as well.

In The Ancient Synagogues of Southern Palestine, 300-800 C.E., Steve Werlin considers ten synagogues uncovered in southern Palestine. Through an in-depth analysis of the art, architecture, epigraphy, and stratigraphy, the author demonstrates how monumental, religious structures provide critical insight into the lives of those who were strangers among Christians and Muslims in their ancestral homeland.

Mathys et al. (eds.), Neue Beiträge zur Semitistik

Hans-Peter Mathys, Viktor Golinets, Hanna Jenni and Samuel Sarasin (Eds.)
Neue Beiträge zur Semitistik

Fünftes Treffen der Arbeitsgemeinschaft Semitistik in der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft vom 15.–17. Februar 2012 an der Universität Basel

AOAT 425

Printed edition 2015 (ISBN: 978-3-86835-163-7): 352 pages, 98.00 €
Printed edition + e-book in production

This volume contains part of the lectures given at a conference for Semitic languages held at the University of Basel, February 15th to 17th 2012. The articles deal with Akkadian, Amharic, Ancient North and South Arabic, Classical and Modern Arabic, Argobba, Classical Ethiopic, Modern Aramaic, Hebrew and Phoenician. The topics discussed are phonology and lexicography, verbal syntax, epigraphy and literary studies.
Via the Agade list.

Video on the Herculaneum library

WHAT'S NEW IN PAPYROLOGY: Video: Herculaneum's Lost Library. It is unfortunate that the video opens asserting of the Herculaneum scrolls that "The only library ever recovered from antiquity comes to light in a new day." Ahem ... the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Some past posts on the Herculaneum library are here and links. Related post here.

Review of Dever, The Lives of Ordinary People in Ancient Israel

JAMES MCGRATH: Review of William Dever, The Lives of Ordinary People in Ancient Israel.
Dever’s book is actually something much more significant than the title may actually reveal: it is the first attempt to write about the way of life of ancient Israel (focusing in this instance on the 8th century BCE) initially based on archaeology alone as the primary data, and then and only then to bring the Biblical texts into the picture.

Database for Verbs in the Dead Sea Scrolls

MUCH DATA: Database for Verbs in the Dead Sea Scrolls. This looks like an important and useful collection of information on the verbs used in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is supplemental to Ken Penner's new book (noted here, cf. here), The Verbal System of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and is probably best used in conjunction with it.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

New Reviews of the Enoch Seminar

Eliza Rosenberg reviews Susan Marks, First Came Marriage

Kenneth Bergland reviews Kenneth A. Kitchen and Paul J. N. Lawrence, Treaty, Law and Covenant in the Ancient Near East

Isaac W. Oliver reviews George W.E. Nickelsburg and James C. VanderKam, 1 Enoch 1 & 2 (Hermeneia Series)

Dereck Daschke reviews Hindy Najman, Losing the Temple and Recovering the Future: An Analysis of 4 Ezra

Morna D. Hooker reviews Eve-Marie Becker, Troels Engberg-Pedersen, and Mogens Muller (eds.), Mark and Paul: Comparative Essays Part II for and against Pauline Influence on Mark

Nathalie LaCoste reviews Sarah J. K. Pearce, The Words of Moses Studies in the Reception of Deuteronomy in the Second Temple Period

Augusto Cosentino reviews Gary N. Knoppers, Jews and Samaritans: The Origins and History of Their Early Relations

Patrick Pouchelle reviews David Hamidović (ed.), Aux origines des messianismes Juifs: Actes du colloque international tenu en Sorbonne, à Paris, les 8 et 9 juin 2010

Review of Honigman, Tales of High Priests and Taxes

Sylvie Honigman, Tales of High Priests and Taxes: The Books of the Maccabees and the Judean Rebellion against Antiochos IV. S. Mark Taper Foundation imprint in Jewish studies. Oakland: University of California Press, 2014. Pp. ix, 554. ISBN 9780520275584. $95.00.

Reviewed by Linda Zollschan (


Honigman presents a radical historical reconstruction of the causes of the Maccabaean revolt and a new reading of the First and Second Books of Maccabees. The book begins with a general introduction that provides an overview of the subject matter, the purpose of the authors of the First and Second Books of Maccabees and the problems with older research on the Maccabaean revolt, namely that of Bickerman and Tcherikover.1 She criticises their positivist reading of the sources, the framing of the relationship between the Jews in Judaea and the Seleucid empire in terms of a legalistic conception of institutions, and their views regarding the Hellenization of Jerusalem. She then outlines how she intends to proceed.

Some topically related posts are collected here and links.

Review of Portier-Young, Apocalypse against Empire

THE TWO CITIES: Review of Apocalypse against Empire by Anathea E. Portier-Young (Max Botner).
Bottom Line: This book represents an important contribution to our understanding of (1) Judean history during the Seleucid and Hasmonean period, (2) the functions of apocalyptic literature within that period, and (3) the ways in which scripture can provide counter-liturgies to the claims of empires. I would highly recommend this book to all who are interested in this area—seasoned scholars and neophytes alike.
I noted the book when it came out here. Earlier reviews are noted here and here.


YONA SABAR: Hebrew word of the week: Elul.
The Hebrew exiles in Babylonia remained loyal to Judaism but were also influenced by the Babylonian culture, including borrowing the names of the months from the Babylonians.* Indeed, the names don’t have any Hebrew etymology. ...

Old Sumerian in New Zealand

IN A MUSEUM, THAT IS: Inscription one of five known (John Gibb, Otago Daily Times).
Otago Museum staff long suspected that an ancient cuneiform inscription in a polished brick-like rock in their collection was something special.

But it was only after assyriologist Prof Wayne Horowitz, of Jerusalem, visited the museum in 2013 and made a careful study, that the truth about this 3500-year-old inscription has become known.

And the museum now realises that it is home to one of only five known cuneiform inscriptions linked to Hasmar-Galsu, a ruler in the ancient Sumerian civilisation, in the ancient equivalent of southern Iraq.

No, this doesn't have anything to do with ancient Judaism. It just goes with a recent theme of ancient inscriptions showing up in unexpected places.