Saturday, October 24, 2015

Witherington interviews Barclay on Paul and the Gift

BEN WITHERNIGTON: John Barclay’s— Paul and the Gift– Part One. Continued in John Barclay’s Paul and the Gift– Part Two. Witherington records a dialogue with Barclay on Barclay's new book, Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans, 2015).

Barbati on Syriac into Middle Iranian

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Syriac into Middle Iranian. New article: Barbati, Chiara. 2015. Syriac into Middle Iranian: A Translation Studies Approach to Sogdian and Pahlavi Manuscripts within the Church of the East. Open Linguistics 1(1). 444–457.

Relevant, for example, for part of the manuscript tradition of the Book of Giants, although I don't know that this specific book is mentioned in the article. Cross-file under Syriac Watch.

Manuscript analysis conference at Hamburg

ANNOUNCEMENT: Second International Conference on Natural Sciences and Technology in Manuscript Analysis. Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, Hamburg 29 February - 2 March 2016.
Our time witnesses increasing demand in application of modern technologies and material analysis in the manuscript studies. The second conference dedicated to natural sciences and technology in manuscript analysis continues the tradition of bringing together scholars and scientists from the fields of humanities, informatics, chemistry, physics and biology. Also this time the conference will provide a forum for discussions on various aspects of manuscripts and presentations of new results, technologies and approaches. Contributions are solicited for original research work stressing the role of natural sciences and technology in the following areas:
  • Image analysis of visual manuscript features
  • Recovering lost writing
  • Material analysis of writing material
  • Cutting edge techniques
The conference will be hosted by the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC) at the University of Hamburg, participation is free. Please register below.
Follow the link for the CFP and registration information.

Anniversary of the downfall of Hannibal

PUNIC WATCH: This week in history: Scipio defeats Hannibal at Zama (Cody K. Carlson, The Deseret News).
On or around Oct. 19, 202 B.C., according to historians, (though some place the date in September), the Roman Gen. Scipio Africanus crushed the forces of Hannibal Barca of Carthage at the Battle of Zama. The defeat forced the Carthaginians to cede victory in the war to Rome.



LIV INGEBORG LIED: ThALES up and running.
ThALES is a new lectionary database giving scholars access to ancient and medieval Christian and Jewish lectionaries.
Follow the link for details and a link to the site.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Yes, there were Jewish temples on the Temple Mount

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Were There Jewish Temples on Temple Mount? Yes. The preponderance of archaeological and historical evidence is overwhelming and the argument that there is 'no proof' of the Temples is a modern political artifact (Ruth Schuster and Ran Shapira, Haaretz).
Was there once a great Jewish temple on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount? Yes. Does any scholar genuinely doubt there was? No, say archaeologists who have spent their lives studying Jerusalem. "I feel stupid even having to comment on it," says Dr. Yuval Baruch, a leading Israeli archaeologist who has studied Jerusalem throughout his career." Demanding proof that the Temples stood on the Mount is like demanding proof that the ancient stone walls surrounding Jerusalem, which stand to this day, were the ancient stone walls surrounding Jerusalem," he adds.

The contention that there is no proof the Temples existed, let alone on the Mount, is an artifact of the recent Israeli-Arab conflict. Jewish, Christian and Muslim tradition has always held the Mount sacred and none queried the existence of the Temples. "A Brief Guide to al-Haram al-Sharif," published in English by the Supreme Muslim Council itself in 1925, states: "The site is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest (perhaps from pre-historic) times. Its identity with the site of Solomon's Temple is beyond dispute. As well as being sacred to Jews, the hilltop plaza, which could go back as much as 5,000 years, is sacred to Muslims as the place from which the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. No Muslim scholars would agree to be interviewed for this article.

Excellent article that carefully and accurately collects the relevant evidence and the views of scholars. Regular readers of PaleoJudaica will already have seen most of the material, but it is very good to have it collected in one place in a traditional media article. One more excerpt:
Archaeologists cannot conclusively point to stones they know comprised the Second Temple, let alone the first one. But as Prof. Israel Finkelstein, a world-renowned expert on Jerusalem archaeology, spells out in an email to Haaretz, "There is no scholarly school of thought that doubts the existence of the First Temple."

All the archaeologists Haaretz spoke with for this article believe that if Temple Mount could be excavated – which it never has been – such evidence would be found, even if many of the stones were repurposed over the centuries.  But concrete finds definitively from the Temple exist in abundance, says Bar-Ilan University Prof. Gabriel Barkay, an archaeologist who has spent many years working in Jerusalem, and the area of Temple Mount in particular.
More on Professor Barkay's Temple Mount Sifting Project is here and links.

And this related article just came out in the Times of Israel: Ancient Temple Mount ‘warning’ stone is ‘closest thing we have to the Temple.’ Carved in bold Greek letters, 2,000-year-old Herodian inscription marked off the section of Jerusalem’s most sacred site where gentiles couldn’t go — and shows they were welcome elsewhere in holy area (ILAN BEN ZION).
“If we talk about the closest thing to the Temple we have,” said David Mevorach, senior curator of Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine Archaeology, “on the Temple Mount, this was closest.”

Two millennia ago, the block served as one of several Do Not Enter signs in the Second Temple in Jerusalem, delineating a section of the 37-acre complex which was off-limits for the ritually impure — Jews and non-Jews alike. Written in Greek (no Latin versions have survived), they warned: “No foreigner may enter within the balustrade around the sanctuary and the enclosure. Whoever is caught, on himself shall he put blame for the death which will ensue.”
Related post here.

The blowback continues against that inaccurate and poorly presented article on the Jewish temples by Rick Gladstone which recently embarrassed the New York Times. More on it here and links.

Yet again: the NYT on the Temple Mount

STILL CAN'T QUITE GET IT RIGHT: CAMERA Prompts New York Times Correction on Western Wall, Temple Mount.

Cross-file under "Temple Mount Watch." Background here and links.

Thousands of Jews visit Rachel's Tomb

BLOWBACK: 'Islamic site'? Thousands of Jews pray at Rachel's Tomb. Thousands at site of Jewish matriarch's tomb ahead of day of her passing; UNESCO just recognized site as 'Muslim' (Arutz Sheva).
Early vatikin prayers held at dawn on Friday morning saw thousands of Jews visit Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, Judea, where the Jewish matriarch is buried.

The special visit comes a day ahead of the day of Rachel's passing, Marcheshvan 11 in the Jewish calendar, which falls this Saturday.

Giving a special poignancy to the prayers is the fact that UNESCO just this Wednesday passed a Palestinian Authority (PA) resolution, listing Rachel's Tomb and the Cave of Machpelah in Hevron - where the rest of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs are buried - as "Muslim sites."

The motion also condemned Israel for excavations near the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and the site of the First and Second Temples.

The historical background on the (traditional) Tomb of Rachel is discussed here. See also this post by Todd Bolen at the Bible Places Blog. I do not claim that there was an historical Rachel or that, if there was, this was her tomb. Her actual tomb, if there was one, may have been somewhere else entirely. But it has been a site of Jewish and Christian pilgrimage since late antiquity. And, sure, it's a Muslim holy site too. Let's share. Background on the unfortunate resolution just passed by UNESCO is here and links.


YONA SABAR: Hebrew word of the week: Sakkin Knife.

Burke and Landau (eds.), New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 1

New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 1
More Noncanonical Scriptures
Tony Burke
Brent Landau
HARDCOVER; Coming Soon: 8/10/2016
ISBN: 978-0-8028-7289-0
The Eerdmans site does not yet have a description, but Tony Burke has more details, including the TOC, here.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

UNESCO has voted yes

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Entire House Jewish Caucus Blasts UNESCO on Temple Mount Vote. Jewish lawmakers condemn claim that Israel is responsible for surge in violent attacks; Jewish groups call decision 'offensive and a distortion of history' (Haaretz and JTA).
All 19 Jewish House lawmakers slammed UNESCO for its vote charging Israel with changing the status quo at a Jerusalem holy site.

“The continued false allegations against Israel as having violated the status quo at the Temple Mount, which is under the custodianship of Jordan and the Wakf Muslim religious trust, and blaming Israel for the surge in violent attacks, must be condemned,” said the statement Wednesday signed by the 18 Jewish Democrats and one Jewish Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives.

UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural arm, on Wednesday approved a resolution saying that Israel is altering the status quo on the Temple Mount, also known as Haram al Sharif, which is holy to Muslims and Jews.


UNESCO’s executive committee voted 26-6 on the resolution advanced by six Arab countries, with 25 abstentions, on behalf of the Palestinians. The United States led the dissenters. A proposal to label the Western Wall as a Muslim holy site was removed prior to the vote, which also designated Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron as Muslim sites to be part of a Palestinian state. Both sites are also holy to Jews.

Related: UK votes against “outrageous” resolution to have holy Jewish tombs reclassified as Muslim sites (Jewish News).

Both (traditional sites) Rachel's Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs were Jewish sites long before they were Muslim ones. Additional background on the resolution and the sites is here and here and links.

Corpse impurity in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Decomposing Bodies, Congealing Carcasses, Handfuls of Corpse Dust, and Other Interests of the Rabbis.The Talmud’s obsessions are not necessarily our own, and in this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ the ancient wise men engage in theoretical debate over ritual impurity.
But by the time the Talmud was compiled, the Temple had been destroyed for almost 500 years—as much time as separates us from Columbus. Most of the Jewish people lived in the Diaspora, which meant that they were automatically considered tamei. And because there were no more red heifers to sacrifice at the Temple, it was impossible to purify oneself according to the biblical ritual. Yet all this did not stop the rabbis from discussing purity and impurity down to the finest detail. The law in this case—as in the analogous case of the priestly tithes, the terumah—was entirely virtual, a matter of theory rather than practice; and theory was enough to keep it alive for 2,000 years, down to our own day.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Sodom in the news

SODOM DISCOVERED? Readers may be curious about recent reports that the site of the biblical city of Sodom has been discovered. I don't have any particular interest in or view on the subject, but over at the Bible Places Blog, Chris McKinny has a post on the state of the question: Sodom...again? Another Geographical Issue with Tall el-Hammam. He is unconvinced.

"Ben Hur" delayed

CINEMA: ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake Moved to August (Dave McNary, Variety).
MGM and Paramount Pictures have moved the release of “Ben Hur” by nearly six months — from Feb. 26 to Aug. 12.

“Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” both performed well in August so the studio likely believes that part of the summer summer [sic] is the best time to unspool a tentpole epic. The upcoming Olympics also provides an ideal advertising platform.

Background on this new film version of Ben Hur, as well as previous productions, is here, here, and links.

"Salome" adapted

THEATRE: Shakespeare Theatre’s ‘Salome’: A chilling, erotic Biblical meditation. The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s mesmerizing adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s controversial verse play is like a mesmerizing séance of voices from the past (Malcolm Barnes, Communities Digital News).
WASHINGTON, October 20, 2015 – The Shakespeare Theater Company’s current production of Oscar Wilde’s “Salome” transports you to a mystical period in Biblical antiquity where time seems to stand still. From the production’s opening slow march of players who emerge from the sparse grey trappings arrayed stage left, director Yael Farber creates a mesmerizing séance of voices and images that literally transports you to the inner sanctuary of a holy yet terrifying erotic palace of bondage and desire.

It sounds ... innovative.

Another production of Wilde's Salome in Los Angeles, and the prospect of a future one in London, were noted last year here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Jewish apostasy after the Second Temple fell?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Apostasy in Judaism. Did Jews have a faith crisis following the Second Temple destruction? (Robin Ngo). As usual, the full article by Jonathan Klawans is behind the BAR subscription wall, but this column summarizes the issues.

Hawass on Nefertiti's supposed tomb

ZAHI HAWASS: Where is the tomb of Queen Nefertiti? There is no evidence to support the theory that the tomb of Queen Nefertiti lies behind the walls of the tomb of Tutankhamun, writes Zahi Hawass (Al-Ahram). I haven't heard anything out of Dr. Hawass for quite a while. Excerpt:
I started the first Egyptian expedition to excavate in the Valley of the Kings and began the work in front of the tomb of Tutankhamun, working in the same spot that Reeves has indicated. But what he has interpreted as a tomb is actually a crack in the rock. When Otto Schaden from Memphis State University found the true location of KV63, Reeves announced that it had in fact been his idea, and as a result he lost my respect.

Moreover, according to scientists, radar is not useful in archaeology and has not been used to make discoveries. The use of radar in this case is simply designed to give more publicity to Reeves. According to Hani Halal, a former minister of higher education, radar is useless, but a new technique called infrared thermography can tell us the location of doors and rooms behind tomb walls.

I believe that Reeves’s theory has no scientific basis because the 3D photographs he used cannot be used to give correct readings and anything can be imagined from them. Reeves has imagined his information and used it to pursue his habit of always saying things to attract the media.

In conversation with a scholar who has worked at the Valley of the Kings, we discussed the theory and agreed that the traces on the walls of KV62 are based on a reading of the publication of Factum Arte’s work. They are merely the traces of the chisels of the ancient masons and the outlines of two doors that were never carved. It is premature to suggest that the doors give access to hitherto undiscovered chambers containing the tomb of Nefertiti.

The great Egyptologist Howard Carter worked inside the tomb for ten years. If anything was behind those walls he would have found it. When archaeologists find a tomb, they look everywhere to discern if anything is hidden behind the walls.
This is far outside my areas of expertise, so I am just passing on what I find. Cross-file under Technology Watch (?).

Background to the story is here and here.

Metatron goes asteroid mining

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: Metatron Global to Join Deep Space Industries on Asteroid Mining Quest. Asteroid Mining Company Deep Space Industries Announces Investment by the International Investment Fund Metatron Global, A.S.
DSI will harvest resources from near Earth asteroids and return them for use in Earth orbit, refueling satellites and providing building materials for commercial research and production outposts in space. Along with Metatron, several Angel and Institutional investors are participating in the company's seed round, which is expected to close before the end of 2015. Qualified, interested investors are encouraged to contact DSI's Investor Relations team at to learn more.
I suppose Metatron and his angelic colleagues have reason to keep an eye on what human beings are doing in the heavens.

UNESCO resolution toned down

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Palestinians drop bid to name Western Wall part of Al-Aqsa. Controversial clause removed from UNESCO proposal, but vote on declaring Rachel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs Muslim sites to go ahead (RAOUL WOOTLIFF AND RAPHAEL AHREN, Times of Israel).
The Palestinians have withdrawn their demand that the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization declare the Western Wall an “integral part” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, Israeli officials said Wednesday.

The resolution — which the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) executive board is scheduled to vote on Wednesday — still contains a request to recognize Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron as Muslim sites. Israeli diplomats said they would continue to fight the resolution, and try to get allied states to reject it.

The revision of the resolution may not have been unrelated to yesterday's story: UNESCO head ‘deplores’ proposal declaring Western Wall a Muslim site. But it sounds as though much that remains unchanged in the resolution also remains problematical. The problems are not new. Past posts pertaining to UNESCO and the Tomb of Rachel and the Tomb of the Patriarchs are here, here, and links.

Background on the current resolution is here and links.


YONA SABAR: Hebrew word of the week: Tannur “(clay) oven.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Judeo-Arabic today

STILL AROUND: Blessings and curses of Judeo-Arabic (Lyn Julius, Jerusalem Post Blog). I have mentioned from time to time (here and links) my own developing research interest in Judeo-Arabic. So I found it very interesting to hear that it survives as a spoken language today, although perhaps not for much longer.
When I was growing up as the daughter of Iraqi Jews, I used to think that the language my parents spoke consisted largely of curses. My mother would insult the object of her scorn with wakamazzalem ('May their luck run out'). Woudja ! was an expression of pain and Wi Abel ! (O mourning - from the Hebrew evel), an expression of dismay. An idiot would be called zmal ( a donkey) or booma (an owl - anything but wise). Later, I discovered that there was more to the Judeo-Arabic language. It had marvellously sonorous words like bezoona (cat), darboona (corridor) and teeteepampa (mattress fluffer - a trade now sadly extinct.)

The Jewish dialect is more ancient than the Arabic spoken by Muslim Iraqis, which was adulterated through the centuries by Beduin Arabic. The Jewish version is closer to the Arabic spoken in northern Iraq and has definite affinities with Aramaic.


Jenkins, The Many Faces of Christ

NEW BOOK: The Many Faces of Christ (Philip Jenkins, The Anxious Bench).
My new book is just published!

This is The Many Faces of Christ: The Thousand Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels (New York: Basic Books, 2015). I have talked about this topic quite a bit on this blog, but this book addresses the subject in much greater detail.

We often hear about newly discovered ancient gospels that are claimed to throw light on Jesus’s life and times. When the media report these stories, they usually suggest that such alternative gospels were once very common, but that the institutional church stamped them out, probably around 400AD, so that ever since, the world has had to rely on the standard “Big Four,” of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Many Faces of Christ shows that that history is simply wrong. ...
Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

Orion Center for the Study of the DSS etc.

AWOL: Orion Study Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literatures. And also (but last published in November 2014): Open Access Journal: The Orion Center Newsletter.

It's been a long time since I mentioned the Orion Center here, so AWOL's recent postings are a good excuse to do so again.

Adam Zertal 1936-2015

SAD NEWS: Adam Zertal, Professor of Archaeology at Haifa University, passed away this weekend at the age of 79. He was best known for his not uncontroversial discovery of the Iron Age "altar" at Mount Ebal. Eve Harow has published a personal memorial at the Times of Israel Blog: Adam Zertal: A Shmendrik on Crutches No More. Excerpt:
It’s not hard to explain why I was so taken with Adam (what he like to be called; my first name just helped the connection). His personal story was steeped in bravery. So severely injured in Sinai during the ’73 War that he walked with crutches for the rest of his life, he nonetheless continued with archaeology studies and hence stepped into a world of science and research that in the Middle East is often about neither.
I met him once about thirty years ago, when he gave a seminar at Harvard on the Mount Ebal structure. He was not on crutches then, as far as I can remember, but he did tell us to call him "Adam."

May his memory be for a blessing.

Where does the word "Jew" come from?

ORIGINS: Why Are Jews Called Jews? The word 'Jew' originates with the ancient Israelite kingdom of Judah, but what its name means is a matter of great controversy. It could even mean 'Thank God' (Elon Gilad, Haaretz). No one actually knows where the name of the Iron Age II Kingdom of Judah came from or what exactly the word originally meant, but this article discusses some of the possibilities. Then it proceeds to the history of the development of the word, which is the source of the word "Jew." Excerpt:
However Judah got its name, it didn’t last long. In 586 BCE, the kingdom was overrun and destroyed by the Babylonian Empire and the Israelite elites were exiled to Babylon.

In 538 BCE, Cyrus the Great decreed that the Israelite exiles could return to their land, which was restructured as a semi-autonomous Persian province named Yahud.

For the next 700 years, Jerusalem and its environs maintained some version of this name as the land passed from ruler to ruler. This ended when the Bar Kochba revolt was crushed in 135 CE. The Romans threw out the Jews and renamed the region Syria-Palestine.

But while the region was no longer designated by the Latin name IVDÆA, the ethno-religious group that traced its origins to it spread throughout the Roman Empire, and received an appellation designating them as people from there -  iūdaeus. This Latin word came from the equivalent Greek word ioudaios, which in turn came from the Aramaic yehudai, which in turn came from the Hebrew yehudi - Judean.

But what does all this have to do with the English word “Jew”?

Monday, October 19, 2015

More on the Temple Mount Sifting Project

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Sifting Through the Dirt to Uncover the Temple Mount’s Secrets. How do you excavate a site where an archaeological dig could start a war? Enter the Sifting Project, which hunts for treasures in earth once dug up by the Mount’s Muslim authorities (Danna Harman). The story of the Temple Mount Sifting Project is very familiar to regular readers of PaleoJudaica, but it is always good to see the project getting media attention. This Haaretz article gives good coverage of the its history and accomplishments. A couple of excerpts:
Their intention, explains Dvira, was to salvage artifacts from Temple Mount soil removed by the Waqf, the Muslim trust that manages the site under Jordanian custodianship. The goal was also to paint a better picture of the place’s long and rich history.

Four hundred truckloads of this soil (some 9,000 tons) were unceremoniously dumped in the Kidron Valley near the Old City’s northeast corner in 1999 and 2000 as the Waqf converted an ancient substructure in the southeast corner — known as Solomon’s Stables — into a mosque. It also built a large emergency exit in front of the long buried northern archways.

“Every reasonable person would understand the need for an emergency exit,” notes Barkay. “But this was no small exit. They dug a gigantic pit, 43 meters in length, 36 meters in width and 12 meters in depth — all without any archaeological supervision.” The Waqf has its own archaeologist, he adds, “but as this work was going on he was sent with his family to Jordan for a long holiday — so he wouldn't see the atrocity.”

“It took several weeks for the general population to understand what was going on,” continues Barkay. “I was teaching a course on the archaeology of Jerusalem at Bar-Ilan University at the time when two of my best third-year students, Zachi and Aran [Yardeni], came to me with filthy bags filled with shards they had collected from the dump and asked me to look at them. That’s how this all began.”


According to Barkay, one of the most significant finds has been a First Temple period bulla, or clay seal impression affixed to a fabric sack, with a priestly inscription in Hebrew. It was the first evidence of ancient Hebrew writing from the Temple Mount and evidence of administrative activity before the First Temple, says Barkay.

A 10-year-old tourist from Russia uncovered another rare seal just last year — one dating to the 10th or 11th centuries B.C.E., corresponding to the period of the Jebusites and the conquest of Jerusalem by King David.

“Some scholars doubt that the Temple Mount was part of the city during the 10th century B.C.E., and suggest that Jerusalem was not a capital city but merely a small village,” says Dvira. “Our finds, which also include many pottery shards from this period, contradict this minimalist assertion and confirm the biblical account.”

The project has so far uncovered more than 5,000 coins — from tiny Persian-period ones (the fourth century B.C.E.) to others minted in modern times — attesting to the Temple Mount’s rich past, says Dvira. One gem was a rare silver half-shekel minted in the first year of the Jewish revolt against Rome in 66 C.E. The coin features a branch of three pomegranates and an inscription in ancient Hebrew reading “Holy Jerusalem.”
Background here and many, many links. Also, a reminder: you can view a limited number of Haaretz premium articles monthly without charge if you sign up with a free registration.

More on the damage to the (traditional) Tomb of Joseph

REPORT: 'The PA Acts Just Like ISIS' Official delegation led by Sephardic Chief Rabbi assesses damage to Joseph's Tomb, finds 'the PA was involved' (Yoni Kempinski, Arutz Sheva)
Three days after Arab rioters burned Joseph's Tomb in Shechem (Nablus), the Samaria Regional Council sent an official delegation on Sunday night to inspect the damage at the holy site.

The delegation was led by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, Samaria Regional Council Head Yossi Dagan, Samaria Chief Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, and Dagan's deputy Davidi Ben-Tzion. IDF commanders tasked with the region were also present, as were arson damage inspectors.


The Samaria Regional Council is currently checking how it can work to restore the site, Dagan announced, commenting on the burned out chambers: "these are horrific and difficult sights."

"It makes no sense to come to the center of the land of Israel to one of the holiest sites to the Jewish nation, an international heritage site, and it's completely desecrated and broken," said Dagan.

"These are horrific sights that prove with a certainty that the Palestinian Authority was involved. A rabble couldn't cause such damage over such time without the (Palestinian) Authority catching wind of it."

Enumerating the damage inflicted, he added, "the marble on the grave marker is completely broken. The floors are broken. The ceiling is broken. Everything is burned. We need to think about how to restore the site, to clean and prepare it to take in thousands of worshipers again."

"And beyond the physical repair, we need to do some soul searching as to how it happened that in the center of the state, a place that is so holy is desecrated, and the world is nearly completely silent."

I was not there and I cannot confirm the account or the inferences drawn from it. But this is the only account I can find of what the current state of the site is. I do note that the Palestinian Authority has officially condemned the attack.

Background here.

New journal: Gnosis

APRIL DECONICK: Major Announcement: Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies. This is very good news.

The UN plans to go up against ISIS

ISIS AND ANTIQUITIES WATCH: UN peacekeepers to guard heritage sites from Islamic State. Spurred by destruction in Palmyra, UNESCO okays Italian plan to charge Blue Helmets with protecting sites in danger zones (AFP). The plan is actually to protect heritage sites around the world. This is potentially very good news, as long as the UN understands what it is getting itself into and is ready to expend blood and treasure to protect these sites. If this plan ends up being carried out, I applaud the courage of these UN peacekeepers and I wish them the best.

Background on the assault of ISIS on the past and its caretakers is here and here and links.

A Maccabean-era synagoge at Delos?

ARCHAEOLOGY: Investigating the So-called Ancient Synagogue of Delos, Greece. The birthplace of the god Apollo has a site dating to the time of the Maccabees that has been labeled one of the world’s oldest synagogues. But is it? (Brian Schaefer, Haaretz).
In its heyday, Delos was a political, cultural and economic hub of the Hellenic empire. Today, it’s an experiential outdoor antiquities museum, featuring the long-gone civilization through unearthed mosaics, jagged pillars and chipped phallic statues.  And about 15 minutes by foot from what might be considered Downtown Delos, past an unattractive building with displays of busts and busted artifacts, beyond the staff huts, and nearly on the beach lies the Delos Synagogue, basically the outline of a two-room stone structure dating to the second century BCE.

It is known as a synagogue primarily because the museum’s map says it is, and because there is a stone plaque at its entrance with the word “synagogue” chiseled in both English and Greek. Archaeologists proclaimed it such a century ago, but some scholars disagree whether it was in fact a Jewish place of worship, or a Jewish place at all.


First fruits for Holy Argarizein
The inscriptions found on or near GD 80 are not biblical prayers scrawled in Hebrew or Aramaic. That would be too easy. Rather, they reference names that Plassart identified as Jewish (Agathokles and Lysimachos) and contain the word proseuche, which can refer specifically to a Jewish house of prayer - or can be applied more generally as a kind of offering.

If anything, additional inscriptions uncovered in 1979 actually offer explicit evidence of a Samaritan presence. Two of them honor benefactors of the community and begin: “The Israelites on Delos who make first-fruit offerings to Holy Argarizein” – which is a reference to Mount Gerizin, in present day Nablus, which is part of ancient Samaria.

[Historian Lidia] Matassa is unconvinced that this answers the synagogue question one way or another. She points out that there is no way to know whether the dedications where made by a permanent community, or by a passing traveler.

The physical structure of the space offers few clues, since it largely echoes the architecture and design of neighboring buildings. It is, however, found on the eastern shore and has a clear eastern orientation, which is characteristic of many synagogues.

As for the alleged mikveh, Matassa and others claim it is a mere cistern, which, at the time of use, would have been subterranean and impossible for a person to use.
This is just a taste of a long article, worth reading in full. I can't find any past PaleoJudaica posts on the Delos "synagogue," but this post gives some background on that "Holy Argarizein" inscription and its connection to Samaritan Mount Gerizim.

UPDATE (25 October): An alert reader has sent in some helpful links. First, this article by Lidia Matassa: Unravelling the Myth of the Synagogue on Delos (Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society 2007 Volume 25, pp. 81-115). Second, I noted a review of Anne Katrine de Hemmer Gudme, Before the God in this Place for Good Remembrance. A Comparative Analysis of the Aramaic Votive Inscriptions from Mount Gerizim here last year. And third, this article by Monika Trümper: The Oldest Original Synagogue Building in the Diaspora: The Delos Synagogue Reconsidered (Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens
Vol. 73, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 2004), pp. 513-598). The latter is available at JSTOR with a free registration.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Review of Beggiani, Early Syriac Theology

MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS: Envisioning Divine Mystery: Scripture, Creation, and Christ in the Theology of the Ancient Syrian Poets – By Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent. Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent on Beggiani’s Early Syriac Theology.
Beggiani’s book is a helpful introduction to the theology of this important Eastern Christian tradition. It is accessible to specialists and non-specialists alike, bringing together many central themes of early Syriac theology. His attention to liturgy, however, sets this book apart. ...
Cross-file under Syriac Watch.

Review of Zsengellér, Rewritten Bible after Fifty Years

Rewritten Bible after Fifty Years: Texts, Terms, or Techniques?
In Brill, Geza Vermes, József Zsengellér, Pieter B. Hartog, Qumran on October 13, 2015 at 6:27 am

2015.10.19 | József Zsengellér. Rewritten Bible after Fifty Years: Texts, Terms, or Techniques? A Last Dialogue with Geza Vermes. JSJSup 166. Leiden: Brill, 2014. €135,00. ISBN: 9789004268159.

Review by Pieter B. Hartog, KU Leuven.


Celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Rewritten Bible,” this volume collects the papers presented at a 2011 conference in Budapest. Its essays deal with various aspects of the history of scholarship on “Rewritten Bible” and seek to provide new perspectives for further study. The volume opens with an intriguing essay by Geza Vermes (who passed away shortly before the publication of this volume), in which he reflects on his development of the term and on fifty years of subsequent “Rewritten Bible” scholarship (“The Genesis of the Concept of ‘Rewritten Bible’”). Seventeen essays follow, subdivided into a theoretical (“Redefining of Rewritten Bible”) and a practical (“Case Studies”) part. Rather than summarising every one of them, I shall discuss some of the issues this volume raises and refer to the appropriate contributions along the way.

I noted the book here when it was published in 2014.

"El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron" resurfaces

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: A Divine Struggle: 'El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron' Is One Of The Great PS3 Games You've (Probably) Never Played (Marlon McDonald, MoviePilot). This game has been out for several years and there are many past posts on it. (Start here and follow the links.) But this belated review is especially enthusiastic and thorough, so it seemed worth noting.
But, in my honest opinion, there is one game on this awe-inspiring and intimidating history-spanning list that manages to justify PS Now's odd pricing model. A modern day classic that manages to encapsulate the utterly unique beauty of the Japanese imagination, with the apocryphal thrills of the Old Testament's Book of Enoch.

A game that received unanimous critical praise, but suffered a lack of sales more than likely due to it being completely one of a kind.
Cross-file, as usual, under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Tarbiz Vol 83, No 3

MAGNES PRESS: Tarbiz Vol 83, No 3 (September 2015). The journal Tarbiz is in Hebrew, but you can read the TOC and abstracts of this issue in English here.

Review of Mitchell (ed.), Sanitation, Latrines and Intestinal Parasites in Past Populations

Piers D. Mitchell (ed.), Sanitation, Latrines and Intestinal Parasites in Past Populations. Farnham; Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2015. Pp. 278. ISBN 9781472449078. $124.95.

Reviewed by Cornelis van Tilburg, Leiden University (


This volume contains twelve articles discussing sanitation, toilets and pathogenic parasites in the past, when hygiene—as we understand the word—did not come close to meeting modern western standards. Of these twelve papers two authors, Piers D. Mitchell and Evilena Anastasiou, have contributed six (four and two respectively).

A striking element in this scholarly volume is the variety of disciplines: archaeology, medicine, biology, parasitology (including paleoparasitology and/or archaeoparasitology), sociology and history. Some articles give a meticulous description of toilets, their archaeology, construction, history and development, while others focus on biology and parasitology. In some articles, numerous tables are included (especially in chapter nine). Overall the number of illustrations is low, and some chapters have few or no illustrations.

This book might have included something about the latrine area discovered near Qumran some years ago, but evidently it did not. For that discovery see here, here, here, and here. But I'm sure the book would be useful background reading for the Qumran latrine, if this is one of your interests.