Saturday, January 02, 2016

The Tiburtine Sibyl

ANCIENT ORIGINS: The Terrifying Doomsday Prophecy of the Tiburtine Sibyl (NATALIA KLIMCZAK). A pretty good essay on the ancient sibylline traditions, but it could be a little more lucid in places. As it says, the Sibyl was a legendary pagan Greek prophetess (or prophetesses). She was co-opted and multiplied by the Romans, still pagan, then adopted as a prophetess in Jewish tradition, then in turn by Christians. There are many ancient books of Sibylline Oracles, but these are all written by Jews or Christians. Nothing remains of the original Roman Sibylline Oracles except the odd quotation.

One important omission in this essay is information on where to read the various books of Sibylline Oracles in English translation. The bulk of them was translated with introduction by John Collins in volume one of Charlesworth's Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Doubleday, 1983). (I don't have the page numbers handy.) The Tiburtine Sibyl has been translated into English with introduction recently by Rieuwerd Buitenwerf in volume one of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (ed. Bauckham, Davila, and Panayotov; Eerdmans, 2013), pp. 176-88. And another translation of the same work, this one by Stephen Shoemaker, is coming out in August of 2016 in volume one of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (ed. Tony Burke and Brent Landau). Enjoy.

The Cotton Genesis on display at the BM

HIGHLIGHT FROM EGYPT: FAITH AFTER THE PHARAOHS: Abraham and the Angels: The Cotton Genesis at the British Museum (British Library Medieval manuscripts blog).
The miniature of Abraham and the angels from the Cotton Genesis is one of the first items on display in the exhibition Egypt: faith after the pharaohs currently taking place at the British Museum. The Cotton Genesis is a landmark in the history of biblical illustration. Produced probably in Egypt during the 5th or 6th century, it contains a copy of the Book of Genesis written in Greek. This extensively illuminated codex once contained a sequence of over 300 illustrations, but tragically it was severely damaged in the fire of 1731 at Ashburnham House, where it was stored together with the rest of the library of Sir Robert Cotton. In the fierce heat of the fire, the parchment leaves shrank and were partly burned or charred. Despite its poor state of preservation, the Cotton Genesis remains an exceptional witness of early biblical illustration and of the highly accomplished technique of late antique book painting.

Background on the exhibition is here and links.

Journal of Late Antiquity 8.2 (2015)

THE JOURNAL OF LATE ANTIQUITY has a new issue out (8.2, 2015) devoted to Religion, Medicine, Disability, and Health in Late Antiquity. A couple of the articles deal with rabbinic Judaism.

The circumcision of Jesus

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: On the Eighth Day of Christmas… (Andrew Jacobs).
And the eight days were fulfilled for circumcising him, and he was called by the name Jesus, which he was called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. - Luke 2:21

Since antiquity Christians have imagined Jesus as an infant, circumcised according to Jewish Law on the eighth day of his life: the paradigmatic mark of the Jewish covenant on the Christian savior's body. While modern Christians may derive an irenic interfaith message from this image, this sign had quite a different significance in the first Christian centuries.

Somewhat related posts are here and here.

Mor, Judean Hebrew

NEW BOOK FROM THE ACADEMY OF THE HEBREW LANGUAGE: Judean Hebrew: The Language of the Hebrew Documents from Judea Between the First and the Second Revolts, Uri Mor (in Hebrew).

HT the IOQS Facebook page.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Hillel and Shammai have their own streets

Hillel Street veers off from King George Street, running near Mamilla Cemetery, Independence Park, and the pedestrian mall known as Ben Yehuda. But my favorite thing about Hillel Street is the fact that it runs parallel to – wait for it – Shammai.

If this fact does not fill you with as much delight as it does me, that’s either because I need to get out more – or, to give myself the benefit of the doubt, perhaps because you have not been acquainted with the great stories of this sage. And just in case it’s the latter, please let me fill you in!

And so she does. As usual with these things, the rabbinic stories she re-tells about Hillel the Elder may often tell us more about the late antique rabbis and what they believed than correct details about the historical Hillel.

Some past posts on Hillel the Elder are here, here, here, and here.

Arava aqueduct

ARCHAEOLOGY: Roman Aqueduct Excavated in Arava Region. The discovery of an ancient aqueduct reinforces the theory that agriculture in the Arava dates back thousands of years. (JNi.Media).
An aqueduct which transported water into agricultural land was excavated at the “Biblical Tamar” site near Ein Hatzeva, a cooperative village in the central Arava valley. According to legend Tamar, which is mentioned as part of the southern border of the Promised Land, was built by King Solomon.

The ancient aqueduct is more than 1,000 years old, and it is possible that it was built as far back as the Roman period (63 BCE to 324 CE). It was discovered during archaeological excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority at the Biblical Tamar site in the Arava in recent weeks. The aqueduct was initially uncovered during works by the Arava Drainage Authority to regulate the flow of the Hatzeva spring.


Glimpses of Jesus Through the Johannine Lens

“Glimpses of Jesus Through the Johannine Lens—An Introduction and Overview of John, Jesus, and History, Volume 3”

This essay is a slightly expanded version of Paul Anderson, Felix Just, and Tom Thatcher. eds. John, Jesus, and History, Vol. 3: Glimpses of Jesus Through the Johannine Lens, scheduled for publication early in 2016 by SBL Press.

See Also: The John, Jesus, and History Project-New Glimpses of Jesus and a Bi-Optic Hypothesis.

By Paul N. Anderson
George Fox University

By Jaime Clark-Soles
Associate Professor of New Testament
Southern Methodist University
December 2015

Sanders, Paul: The Apostle’s Life, Letters, and Thought

JESUS CREED BLOG: The New Perspective is Now Complete (Scot McKnight).
What we needed from Sanders was something more than the last sections of P&PJ and more than we got in his little book on Paul in the Past Masters series. I’m happy to announce we have that book now. To use the words of my father in law, it’s a “ming” (his term for something big and heavy). It’s got to be connected to the Ming dynasty but I don’t find this meaning in urban dictionaries. Anyway, E.P. Sanders now has a book called Paul: The Apostle’s Life, Letters, and Thought (Fortress, 2015). The book was pressed between our two front doors on Christmas Eve Day so it is my Christmas present.

It’s 862 pages, but the font is unusually large (nice for this reader’s eyes) and there’s plenty of white space and, even more, Sanders has great prose — he is crystal clear. He doesn’t care about the old perspective, new perspective and apocalyptic Paul debate. He simply lays out what he thinks Paul means in all his (authentic) letters, paragraph by paragraph. Which is, as the title of his post suggests, the completion of the new perspective on Judaism by forging an interpretation of Paul.


HAPPY NEW YEAR! Have a great year and please keep visiting PaleoJudaica.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve

AS 2015 COMES TO AN END, PaleoJudaica has tallied up 1534 posts for the year, considerably more than any previous year since it began back in 2003. It has received something on the order of half a million page views in 2015. As usual, I will save my list of top posts of the year for the blogiversary notice in March.

I have been putting more effort into the blog and I hope you've been enjoying it. Thanks for visiting. I will do my best to keep up the pace and quality in the coming year.

A New Year's message from ...

ARCHANGEL METATRON WATCH: Getting Ready for the New Year: A message from Archangel Metatron.

Another 2015 Biblical Archaeology top ten

CHRISTIANITY TODAY: Biblical Archaeology’s Top Ten Discoveries of 2015. A glimpse at the important work that took place at excavations this year (Gordon Govier). This list overlaps considerably with the list published in Haaretz earlier this week, but is not quite the same and is more oriented to epigraphic discoveries. For the Haaretz list and background to the stories, see here. As for this one, background on the Horvat Kur mosaic is here and links; on the Davidic-era seal is here; on the Eshba'al (Ishba'al) seal from Khirbet Qeiyafa is here and links; on the new Lachish ostracon is here; and on the carbonized Leviticus scroll is here and links. I did not post on the Beit Shemesh idol head or the Iron Age gate at Gath.

Interview with Louis Feldman

THE JEWISH PRESS: On The Bookshelf (Elliot Resnick).
Professor Louis Feldman received his PhD from Harvard University in 1951 and recently retired after teaching Latin and Greek at Yeshiva University for close to 60 years. A proud Orthodox Jew, Feldman is considered the world’s expert on Josephus and is the author of such works as “Jew & Gentile in the Ancient World” and “Josephus’s Interpretation of the Bible.”
The interview follows.

Tzoref, Selavan (eds.), Eshel, Exploring the Dead Sea Scrolls

Shani Tzoref, Barnea Levi Selavan (Hg.), Hanan Eshel
Exploring the Dead Sea Scrolls
Archaeology and Literature of the Qumran Caves

1. Auflage 2015
314 Seiten with 9 fig. gebunden
ISBN 978-3-525-55096-0
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht

Journal of Ancient Judaism. Supplements - Band 018

120,00 €
Bei Abnahme der Reihe: 110,00 €

Among the most prominent hallmarks of the late Prof. Hanan Eshel (1958–2010) were his generosity, passion, and integrative approach. The eighteen essays in this volume were selected by Prof. Eshel shortly before his untimely death, to be printed as a collection aimed at contextualizing the textual finds of the Dead Sea Scrolls within their archaeological settings and within the contours of contemporary scholarship.
The Qumran texts that stand at the center of these articles are correlated with archaeological and geographic information and with a variety of textual sources including epigraphic evidence and, especially, the Hebrew Bible, Josephus, and rabbinic texts. The essays are organized according to the provenance of the discovered material, with sections devoted to the Damascus Document and the scrolls from Caves 1, 3, 4, and 11, as well as a final more general chapter.
Half of the essays have been previously published in English, while the other half have been translated from Hebrew here for the first time. The book includes essays that have been co-authored with Esther Eshel, Shlomit Kendi-Harel, Zeev Safrai, and John Strugnell.

Discoveries at Rosh HaAyin

EXCAVATION: Farmhouse From First Temple Era, Byzantine Church Found in Central Israel. Vast 2,700-year old farmstead featured 24 rooms around a courtyard - and 1,500-year old church featured credit: 'Built under Theodosius the priest' (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Was Eve made from Adam's penis-bone?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Adam and Eve Story: Eve Came From Where? Somehow I missed this one when it came out last September. It seems that Professor Ziony Zevit published an article then in Biblical Archaeology Review asking “Was Eve Made from Adam’s Rib—or His Baculum?” (i.e., his penis-bone - which human males do not have). At the moment I don't have access to the BAR article, which is behind a subscription wall, but the BHD article summarizes it. The case also seems to have been argued in his 2013 book, What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden? (Yale University Press). For some reason the BAR article and the theory seem suddenly to be getting a lot of attention in the media. The Daily Mail reports in detail and notes the predictable outrage the notion is receiving from some BAR readers. And in Haaretz, Elon Gilad expresses considerable skepticism. (As noted here, he has already done some research on the general subject.)

I haven't seen the full argument, so I won't offer a view. I will say, first, that it seems to depend on the assumption that a removal of Adam's rib would have been taken as a etiological change such that all men subsequently would have been missing a rib. That's a reasonable reading, but it is open to debate. The story could have assumed that a rib was removed from Adam without it having any effect on his descendants, in which case his odd number of ribs would not have been an exegetical problem. Second, as Gilad observes at the end of his article, it is not clear how closely ancient Israelites attended to details of skeletal anatomy. Details of human anatomy only began to be studied systematically by the Alexandrian anatomists. But I concede that counting up how many ribs people have seems like an obvious thing to do.

Divine Sonship Symposium

CONFERENCE REMINDER: Son of God: Divine Sonship in Jewish and Christian Antiquity - The St Andrews Symposium for Biblical and Early Christian Studies. Noted earlier here. The symposium takes place on 6-8 June 2016 St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews. Garrick Allen has posted a flier here at The call for papers is open until 15 February and the Early Bird registration fee is available until 29 February. Follow the links for further particulars

Exhibition on John Dee's library

REMINDER: Scholar, courtier, magician: the lost library of John Dee. Coming soon: An exhibition exploring one of Tudor England's most extraordinary and enigmatic figures. 18 January - 29 July 2016. More information on this exhibition at the Royal College of Physicians, Regent's Park, London, is here. You will also find links there to other posts about John Dee and about my own research on his angelic séances in relation to ancient Jewish visionary traditions. Related post here.

Interview with James K. Aitken

Today I have the pleasure of posting an interview with my doctoral supervisor, James K. Aitken, as a part of my ongoing series of LXX Scholar Interviews. Jim is lecturer in Hebrew, Old Testament, and Second Temple Studies at the University of Cambridge (and currently taking doctoral students). We have been working together since October 2014 and I have benefited immensely from his supervision, despite the various logistical problems we’ve had in the meantime!

As you will read about below, Jim is also quite active in the Septuagint guild and has contributed several key publications in the last few years. He brings a unique set of interests and expertise to the field and is in the midst of producing work that will certainly generate significant discussion within both Septuagint and Second Temple scholarly circles.
The interview follows.

Review of Olyan (ed.), Ritual Violence in the Hebrew Bible

THE BIBLICAL REVIEW: “Ritual Violence in the Hebrew Bible” edited by Saul M. Olyan (William Brown).
Saul M. Olyan (editor). Ritual Violence in the Hebrew Bible: New Perspectives. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015, 190 pp., $74.00 (hardcover).
I highly recommend Ritual Violence in the Hebrew Bible because it is exactly what it says it is: new perspective on the Hebrew Bible through a theme that is extremely underexplored, namely ritual violence. Students and scholars alike will find this volume valuable as it aids in moving forward scholarly studies into realms that have the potentials to shift the current ideas within scholarship. Without a doubt, this volume marks a major shift in how we read violence in the Hebrew Bible.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Reprinting Palmyra's arch

PALMYRA WATCH: Ancient arch of Palmyra which was destroyed by Isis will be recreated in Trafalgar Square and Times Square using the world's largest 3D printer (James Dunn, Daily Mail).
  • Arch is the only remaining part of Temple of Bel, razed by Isis in August
  • Institute of Digital Archaeology will recreate arch in London and New York
  • Made in Shanghai, finished in Italy then built like Lego in Trafalgar Square
  • On show for a week but Mayor Boris Johnson could consider keeping it
  • See full news coverage on ISIS at
The 2,000-year-old arch of an ancient site destroyed by Isis is to be recreated in Trafalgar Square and Times Square as a 'call to action' over the militants' destruction of antiquities.

The famous arch is all that remains of the Temple of Bel in Syria, which was reduced to rubble by Isis militants in August, who murdered its curator and packed the site with explosives. But the 15-metre arch, which many fear will soon be destroyed, is to be recreated in London and New York, using the world's largest 3D printer.


Cross-file under "Techology Watch." Background on the whole sad story of Palmyra is here with many links.

That "Jesus was a Palestinian" meme again

IT'S SAD THAT THIS NEED TO BE NEWS: Australian Church Denies Belief That Jesus Was Palestinian (JTA).
Jesus was not Palestinian, a major church denomination in Australia said after the Executive Council of Australian Jewry challenged an article in a political publication in which the birthplace of Jesus Christ was named as Palestine.


In the article, Samah Sabawi and Bassam Dally wrote: “An official delegation representing our country in Israel has added fuel to the flames of extremism abroad by applauding proven human rights violators and insulting the living descendants of Christ in his home of birth in Palestine.”

Kudos to the Church for responding appropriately. Some related posts are collected here.

A graphic novel on the Maccabees?

KICKSTARTER: Maccabaeus: The War for Judea.
A graphic novel about the Hasmonean Revolt (the backstory to the Jewish festival of Hanukkah). Think "300" with yarmulkes.
Have a look and, if such things appeal to you, you can contribute. They have a long way yet to their goal and not a lot of time remaining.

No digging allowed in the walls of Tut's tomb

MORE FROM ZAHI HAWASS: Egyptian expert disputes new theory that Queen Nefertiti is in Tutankhamun's tomb. British expert's tomb theory 'baseless', says leading Egyptologist (Magdy Samaan, The Telegraph).
Nicholas Reeves, a British Egyptologist now at the University of Arizona, believes that he has found the answer. Last month, he announced that Queen Nefertiti's tomb probably lay behind one wall of King Tutankhamun's tomb.

But Zahi Hawass, a leading archaeologist and formerly Egypt’s minister of antiquities, told the Telegraph that Mr Reeves was peddling a “baseless” theory.
We already knew that, but now Dr. Hawass has gone on record that no damage to the tomb walls will be permitted to test Dr. Reeves's theory:
Mr Hawass promised that Mr Reeves would not be allowed to test his idea. "I will not allow - neither would any archaeologist allow - making a hole in Tutankhamun's tomb,” he said. “The tomb is very vulnerable; any hole may expose the paintings to complete collapse."
He believes that the question of where Nefertiti is buried can be resolved with DNA analysis and concludes:
These tests would reveal the truth, said Mr Hawass, and there was no point in pursuing Mr Reeves’s theory and risking damage to Tutankhamun’s tomb.

"There is nobody in Egypt - whether the minister of archaeology or anyone else - who can take the responsibility for making a scratch in Tutankhamun's tomb,” said Mr Hawass.

“So that is why I think that the idea was born dead."
Cross file under "Technology Watch." Additional background here, here, here, and here.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Ram statue excavated in Caesarea

ARCHAEOLOGY: Beautiful ancient ram statue unearthed near Byzantine church. Christmas Eve discovery in Caesarea excites archaeologists; beautiful sculpture was almost perfectly preserved (Arutz Sheva).
An impressive, nearly full-preserved ancient statue of a ram was discovered by archaeologists near an ancient church in Caesarea that dates to the Byzantine period.

The discovery was made last Thursday morning in an archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting in the Caesarea Harbor National Park, at the initiative of the Caesarea Development Corporation.

Nice piece. They're not sure yet whether it is of Byzantine-era or Roman-era origin and it sounds as though so far they are guessing about its purpose.

Award for the NYT

5. Most Unholy Row: New York Times

When the Palestinian Authority accused Israel of altering the status-quo arrangements on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, the New York Times weighed in with an article questioning whether the ancient Jewish Temples were located in the contested area. The Times ignored the consensus among leading historians that the Temple Mount was indeed the location (hence the current name “Temple Mount,”) for these structures, but seemed oblivious to the damage that the inaccurate article’s timing would cause.

HT Breaking Israel News. The PaleoJudaica coverage of the story is here and links.

Biblical Archaeology 2015

HAARETZ: Biblical Archaeology in 2015: King Hezekiah's Seal and Other Exciting Discoveries. And some maybes: Archaeologists think they may have found where Jesus lived in Nazareth and was tried in Jerusalem (Ruth Schuster).
Is the bible literally true? Are at least parts of it plausible? In digs throughout the region, biblical archaeology sets out to shed light on these questions. It is a difficult task made all the harder by the pull of our deepest wishes: Even artifacts found in situ, exactly where they had been left thousands of years ago, can be of controversial origin, let alone purpose.

Background on that New-Age gold object is here; on Ben Carson's Egypt gaffe is here; on the possible discovery of the Acra is here and links; on the Hezekiah bulla is here, here, and here; on the discovery of a first-century CE house (rather than "Jesus' house") in Nazareth is here; on the possible discovery of Herod's palace in Jerusalem is here and here; and on the possible discovery of Sodom is here. I didn't post about the stories on the Philistines mentioned in this article, but instead see this year's post Psychedelic Philistines.

UPDATE (31 December): Another list is noted here.

Sunday, December 27, 2015


CANDIDA MOSS: Male Circumcision: What Would Jesus Do? On the eighth day of his life, before the Wise Men visited, Jesus was circumcised. What would he make of the debate raging today over male circumcision? (The Daily Beast). Excerpt:
It’s true that the Christmas story is more babe in a manger than bris in the synagogue, but as a Jewish male infant Jesus was circumcised and, chronologically speaking, on the eighth day—and thus before the appearance of any wise men from the east. And yet somehow with all the food, presents, and Santa-fetishizing, the circumcision of Jesus doesn’t get a look in. But as debate about the ethics of circumcising children rages on, perhaps it really should.

The only biblical evidence for Jesus’s circumcision comes from the infancy narrative found in the Gospel of Luke. On the eighth day, we are told, he was circumcised and officially given the name Jesus (although Gabriel had called it at the Anunciation).
Two thoughts.

First, it is interesting and entertaining to compare the debate about circumcision among first-century Jesus followers to the current debate about it, but they are really very different and I do not see that the first sheds any useful light on the modern discussion. The first-century issue was whether gentile followers of Jesus needed to keep the ritual law, particularly circumcision. The present debate is about hygienic matters and the right of patients to make informed decisions.

Second, we should be careful not to draw a moral equivalence between male circumcision and female "circumcision" (better, female genital mutilation). (Professor Moss mentions this position, but frames it hypothetically and refrains from endorsing it.) There is a debate on the costs and benefits of male circumcision and people of goodwill disagree about it. Female genital mutilation is a horrific and barbaric practice that inflicts serious damage on a woman's body and it cannot be justified. The two are not comparable.

Some posts about the present-day debate over male circumcision are here and links. And this debate is not about circumcision per se, but rather about a particular traditional method of circumcision (metzizah b’peh) that poses some significant health risks.

Jewish-Temple denial from an Egyptian newspaper

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Egyptian paper claims Jewish Temple was never in Jerusalem. Article seeks to deny Jewish connection to ‘Al-Quds’, says Jews’ place of worship was actually a converted Egyptian building in the Galilee (LEE GANCMAN, Times of Israel). Here we go again.
An Egyptian newspaper claimed Wednesday that the Jewish First Temple was in actual fact an Egyptian temple that the Jews took over, and that it had never been located in Jerusalem at all.

Sprawling over almost a full page of the daily newspaper “al-Youm al-Saba’a,” the article presented an elaborate theory based partly on analyses of Jewish sources, with assistance from Dr. Iman Tayyeb, an Egyptian professor of Talmud and the Old Testament at the University of Assiut.

While Tayyeb conceded that the Jewish temple may have existed in a place called “Jerusalem,” she said that the city wasn’t located in the same place as Israel’s modern capital. Citing Jewish texts, she claimed it was unclear where the ancient temple stood, but that there was ample evidence that it could not have been at the Temple Mount.

I don't think I've heard this particular goofy "theory" before, but it seems there's always a new one. You can read about it in detail at the link. It has no basis in reality. Some other recent cases of Temple denial are here, here, and links. And there's more on that early-twentieth-century guide to the Temple Mount by the Supreme Muslim Council here, here, and here.

The AJS annual meeting

REPORT: Connecting the dots. Association for Jewish Studies convention offers food for thought (Larry Yudelson, Jewish Standard/Times of Israel).
If your idea of a good time is hearing someone explain at length the connections between the treasures of King Tut’s tomb and the biblical ark of the covenant, you should have been in Boston last week for the annual convention of the Association of Jewish Studies.

I was there. And yes, I had a blast.

The meeting was held in Boston on December 13-15. This is a long report by a well-informed nonspecialist on some papers on Rabbinic and Second Temple Judaism. Excerpt:
A key difference between academic Jewish studies — a field barely 200 years old — and traditional yeshiva studies is that academics look not just at what the texts (the Torah, the Talmud, the midrashim) say but asks: How did those texts fit into the broader picture of the Jewish community of that era? How much do they represent the reality of their era, as opposed to what the authors wanted to be true? How does other historical evidence mesh with those texts? And when were those texts written anyway?

The central problem in these lines of inquiry is there isn’t all that much other evidence. Like paleontologists deducing a species of dinosaur from the shape of a fossilized jawbone, academic Jewish scholars are trying to recreate a world from bits and pieces (and sometimes, in the case of the Dead Sea Scrolls, actual scraps of parchment). If you visualize pre-modern Jewish history as a timeline, then you might put 1500 B.C.E. on the far left — that’s about when the Bible dates the Exodus — and the invention of printing around 1500 C.E. on the right. For most of this period, scholars have occasional points of evidence, but there are huge gaps. Some of the points on the timeline are the traditional Jewish texts: biblical books, Mishna, Talmud, medieval responsa. Other points are archaeological evidence: ancient inscriptions, buildings, utensils, animal bones. (The latter show, among other things, whether the inhabitants of a certain place at a certain time did or did not eat pork.) Then there is the evidence of books and texts that didn’t become part of the Jewish tradition. Some of those were written but not preserved by Jews — this includes books kept as part of Christian editions of the Bible; writers like the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, who didn’t write in Hebrew, and those texts that happened to be preserved alongside Biblical scrolls in the dry caves of Qumran at the shores of the Dead Sea. And finally, there are those books written by non-Jews that give insight into Jewish histories, whether they are Christian church fathers describing their debates with Jews or Babylonian books from the time of the Talmudic sages.

Faced with three or four dots that more or less line up, the temptation is to connect them into a pretty picture. For a professor seeking renown and career advancement, that’s pretty mandatory. The danger, though, is that someone will discover a dot that was overlooked — and that shows the pretty picture didn’t capture all the dots; a theory that overlooked the evidence. So there is a tension between the desire to innovate and the fear of sticking out your not-yet-tenured neck.