Saturday, February 06, 2016

The Dead Sea Squirrels

THAT WOULD BE A GOOD NAME FOR A BAND. OH, WAIT. Meet Delaware County's Dead Sea Squirrels (Brian Bingaman, Delaware County News Network).
Where did that name — a zany spin on the name for a set of ancient Jewish historical and religious parchment/papyrus texts — come from?

“I used to work for a small, independent label in Miami. We’d be stumbling around in a parking lot at 5 in the morning throwing around silly band names. I threw it out there as a joke,” [guitarist/vocalist Bob] Succio said.

Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom, now online for free

ACADEMIA.EDU: Guy G Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom: Esoteric Traditions and the Roots of Christian Mysticism (Studies in the History of Religions 70; Leiden: Brill, 1996). This is actually the 2005 revised and enlarged edition. The Amazon book blurb reads:
This book investigates the problem of esoteric traditions in early Christianity, their origin and their transformation in Patristic hermeneutics, in the West as well as in the East. It argues that these traditions eventually formed the basis of nascent Christian mysticism in Late Antiquity. These esoteric traditions do not reflect the influence of Greek Mystery religions, as has often been claimed, but rather seem to stem from the Jewish background of Christianity. They were adopted by various Gnostic teachings, a fact which helps explaining their eventual disappearance from Patristic literature. The eleven chapters study each a different aspect of the problem, including the questions of Gnostic and Manichaean esotericism. This book will be of interest to all students of religious history in Late Antiquity.
The whole book is downloadable for free as a pdf file. For you, special deal!

Horn and Griffith (eds.), Biblical & Qur'anic Traditions in the Middle East

Biblical & Qur'anic Traditions in the Middle East
Authored by Cornelia B. Horn, editor, Sidney H. Griffith, editor
Edition: First Edition

As the threat to the existence and continuation of the diversity of peoples and cultures in the Middle East steadily increases, despair is not the answer. Instead, the contributors to and editors of this volume respond positively with their work to the ever more important and urgent task of intensifying efforts in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere to study with rigor, dedication, and intellectual acumen the profound and foundational heritage of Middle Eastern origins in order to render it fruitful, productive, and enriching for the development of modern life and thought in all its dimensions.

With discussions of Satan's role in Adam's Fall in Islamic and Syriac Christian traditions, stories about Aaron's death, Jewish and Christian stories concerning the matriarch Sarah or interpretations in poetry and prose of the role of the Psalms, with reflections on the spiritual memories of paradise in the Odes of Solomon, or Manichaean magic, only to mention a few of the topics, this book will take your imagination and insights into new depths and to new heights. Scholars from the Middle East, South Africa, North America, and Europe--Tammie Wanta, Herrie van Rooy, Jason Scully, Ben Rosenfeld, Ilaria Ramelli, Robert Phenix, Rebekka Nieten, Giulio Maspero, Aryeh Levene, Cornelia Horn, Angela Harkins, Sidney Griffith, Craig Blaising, and Gaby Abousamra--contribute new evidence and foundational reflections to understanding the diverse relationships between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. The seeds for this volume's articles were laid at the gatherings of scholars of Syriac Studies at the SBL conferences in New Orleans, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Chicago between 2009 and 2012 and in the context of subsequent international, collaborative projects.

As Sacred Scriptures for the believers, the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur'an guide and inspire billions of faithful women and men across the globe. One of the exceptionally fruitful contexts in which the reception, interpretation, transmission of, and engagement with these holy texts flourished was in the Syriac- and Arabic-speaking milieux. The articles in this volume illuminate once more the critical contribution of Syriac Studies more specifically, and Christian Oriental Studies more generally, to understanding important aspects of reading and hearing Jewish, Christian, and Islamic sacred texts in historical contexts. They open the reader's imagination to the contribution of the Middle East for the cross-fertilization of these sacred texts and their interpretation and reception.

This book is the second volume of Abelian Academic's new series: Eastern Mediterranean Texts and Contexts (EMTC). This series takes its readers on journeys through Eastern Mediterranean time and space. Its cutting-edge research illuminates foundational aspects of this formative region of the modern world. Geoffrey Greatrex, Sidney H. Griffith, Cornelia Horn, Guita G. Hourani, Basil Lourie, Robert R. Phenix, Hagith Sivan, and Cynthia Villagomez serve on the series' editorial board.

Upcoming volumes, to be published in 2016 and 2017, will include chapters by Predrag Bukovec, Vicente Dobroruka, Mats Eskhult, Carl Griffin, Blake Hartung, Cornelia Horn, Stanley F. Jones, Robert Kitchen, Tuomo Lankila, Basil Lourie, Robert Phenix, Ilaria Ramelli, Erga Shnerson, Herrie van Rooy, Cynthia Villagomez, and Helen Younansardaroud, among others.

Publication Date: Jan 09 2016
ISBN/EAN13: 069260975X / 9780692609750
Page Count: 320
Binding Type: US Trade Paper
Trim Size: 6" x 9"
Language: English
Color: Black and White
Related Categories: Religion / Christianity / General
The first volume in the series was noted here.

ASMEA Conference 2016 CFP

JAMES MCGRATH: Jewish Christianity and the Origins of Islam #CFP.

Sifting Project photos

PHOTO OF THE DAY: Sifting for Ancient Treasures (The Jewish Express). Actually there are several nice photos. It's always good to see the Temple Mount Sifting Project getting some attention. Background here (cf. here, here, and here) with oh so many links.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Kulik et al., The Bible in Slavic Tradition

The Bible in Slavic Tradition

Edited by Alexander Kulik, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Catherine Mary MacRobert, University of Oxford, Svetlina Nikolova, Cyrillo-Methodian Research Centre , Moshe Taube, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Cynthia M. Vakareliyska, University of Oregon
This volume contains selected papers from an international conference held in 2009 in Varna, Bulgaria. The papers represent major trends and developments in current research on the medieval Slavonic biblical tradition, primarily in comparison with Greek and Hebrew texts. The volume covers the translation of the canonical, apocryphal and pseudepigraphical books of the Old and New Testaments and its development over the ninth to sixteenth centuries. Another focus is on issues relating to Cyril and Methodius, the creators of the first Slavonic alphabet in the ninth century and the first translators of biblical books into Slavonic. The analytical approach in the volume is interdisciplinary, applying methodologies from textual criticism, philology, cultural and political history, and theology. It should be of value to Slavists, Hebraists and Byzantinists.
For past posts on Old Church Slavonic, especially in relation to the Old Testament pseudepigrapha, see here and here and many links

Literal creation stories?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Should We Take Creation Stories in Genesis Literally? (Robin Ngo). No. Next question?

This BHD post summarizes a a BAR column by Shawna Dolansky which is behind the subscription wall. But I'm pleased to see that it does not neglect that other creation account, the one not found in Genesis. Because dragons!

"Realia" and teaching the NT (etc.)

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Realia and the Teacher’s Toolbox in the Postmodern New Testament Classroom (Richard Newton). The examples in this article could also be readily applied to the postmodern (or whatever) ancient Judaism classroom.

Jehoash inscription R.I.P.?

THE ASOR BLOG: The So-Called Jehoash Inscription: A Post Mortem (Ed Greenstein). Requires free registration to read in full. Excerpt:
Several months after the publication of the tablet and after several scholars had declared the text a fake, the State of Israel put the owner, Oded Golan, and other individuals on trial in Jerusalem district court, for this fraud and for other infractions. After seven and a half years of periodically hearing testimony from 130 witnesses, in March 2012, the judge delivered a 500-page opinion explaining the complexity of the case, in which experts contradicted experts. The judge did not find the Jehoash inscription to be authentic but felt there was enough doubt to acquit the defendant of the major criminal charges. In October 2013 the court ordered the Israel Antiquities Authority to return the tablet to its owner. The tablet was returned the following May.

The judge, overwhelmed by the diverse testimony, was inconclusive. However, the judgment of scholars who read ancient texts and analyze their language and writing is clear: no textbook of ancient Hebrew inscriptions will ever include the so-called Jehoash text; no historian of ancient Israel will ever count the inscription as a source; no grammarian or lexicographer of ancient Hebrew will ever include words, phrases, or forms found in the inscription as genuine data.
Geologists seem to be divided on whether the Jehoash (Joash) inscription could have been faked. Most philologists (myself included) think it is a forgery, but at least one has declined to declare it so, although even he makes no positive case for it being genuine. As usual, if a Semitic philologist ever wishes to publish a peer-review article making such a case, I will have a look at it. Meanwhile, I agree with Ed Greenstein. It's a fake.

Background on the inscription is here and here and many links.


WHICH PROVES YOU SHOULD KNOW THESE THINGS: Chaunte Conquers - Ardenne High Student Is 2016 Spelling Bee Champion (Jamaica Gleaner).
P-s-e-u-d-e-p-i-g-r-a-p-h-a was the word that gave Chaunte the edge over Assana, who was unable to spell it correctly.
Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Archaeological discoveries preserved by nature

ACTUALLY, ALL ARCHAEOLOGICAL DISCOVERIES WERE PRESERVED BY NATURE, BUT THESE ARE INDEED IMPRESSIVE: 5 amazing archaeological discoveries preserved by nature: From Oetzi the Iceman to frozen woolly mammoths (Michael Kuhne, The first item on the list is the Dead Sea Scrolls:
The Dead Sea is a salt lake bordered by Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. It is fed by several tributaries including the Jordan River.

Due to its high salinity and low elevation inside a deep basin, the climate of the Dead Sea region is unique. Atmospheric humidity in the area is relatively low and nearby regions are arid, which provided a very conducive environment for the preservation of the scrolls over the course of thousands of years.

"The fact that they survived for twenty centuries, that they were found accidentally by Bedouin shepherds, that they are the largest and oldest body of manuscripts relating to the Bible and to the time of Jesus of Nazareth make them a truly remarkable archaeological find," according to the U.S. Library of Congress.
The mummies of Pompeii are also on the list. More on them and on the destruction of Pompeii here and links.

2016 Israel Prize winner

Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett has announced that Prof. Edit Doron a professor in the Department of Linguistics and at the Language, Logic and Cognition Center in the Faculty of Humanities at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.will be awarded the Israel Prize for her work in the study of Linguistics.


In its recommendation of Prof. Doron, the Israel Prize Committee said: “Prof. Edit Doron is a researcher at the forefront of linguistics research in Israel and the world, both in general and in formal linguistics, as well as in Hebrew and Semitic languages. Her research deals with a wide range of linguistic phenomena in a variety of languages. In her groundbreaking research she discovered new phenomena in spoken Hebrew today, and in classical Hebrew. Insights from these studies comprise a basis for research in numerous languages studied by the international scientific community. In recent years she turned to understanding the processes that influenced the formation of Modern Hebrew, and in this field she shows how it has evolved a natural evolution of the previous language combined with the great effect of the linguistics of its speakers.”

Some past winners of the Israel Prize have been noted here, here, here, here, here, here (sort of), here, and here.

In Idaho: lecture on Jewish magic

he College of Idaho’s distinctive Craig Neilsen Foundation Lectureship in Judaic Studies is set to host Professor J.H. Chajes from the University of Haifa on Tuesday, Feb. 16. Professor Chajes will present two seminars for C of I students as well as the public lecture “Jewish Magic, Magical Judaism,” which is set for 7 p.m. in Lecture Hall 106 of the Kathryn Albertson International Center on the C of I campus in Caldwell. The lecture is free and open to the public.

The Feb. 16 public lecture will take a fascinating look at the place of magic in Judaism from ancient to modern times. Chajes will begin with an exploration of magic in the Bible and classical rabbinic sources, and then turn to medieval Jewish approaches to magic, examining techniques, critiques and legends. He will conclude with a look at the relationship between Jewish magic and contemporary Jewish culture. The lecture will be followed by a wine and cheese reception.


Ancient canal system near Dead Sea

ARCHAEOLOGY: Roman-era canal system unearthed near Dead Sea.
(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to An ancient canal system used 2,000 years ago to irrigate terraced agricultural plots has been unearthed in an excavation near the Roman-era fortress of Metzad Bokek in southern Israel. The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority jointly conducted the excavation.

Regarding the reference to "persimmon" later in the article, Joseph Lauer commented as follows (inter alia) in his e-mail circulating the article:
We’ve been through this before regarding articles that confuse the afarsemon plant of antiquity, balsam or balm, with the modern Hebrew word for persimmon, also afarsemon. See, e.g., TB Berachot 43a, and Jastrow, Dictionary 109a.

The English article does note, in a translated quote, that the trees “were different from the persimmon trees we know today”.

Shenaton Hamishpat Haivri 28

H-JUDAIC: TOC: Shenaton Hamishpat Haivri 28. Some of the articles deal with ancient Judaic matters.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The Aristophil collection isn't selling

Albert Einstein's notebook and Dead Sea Scrolls fragments among historic manuscripts struggling to find buyer. The value of the collection amassed by the Aristophil group has been estimated at hundreds of millions of euros (Nick Clark, John Lichfield, The Independent).
It is believed that close to 600 institutions and potential private investors have now been sounded out about a bid. Although the collection would enrich the home of any billionaire, it is hoped that a museum, foundation or gallery will come forward.

But it appears that interest has not been overwhelming. The original deadline for bids, ends on Wednesday but a French court hearing is expected to extend that date.

Sources in the art world suggest the collection may be overvalued, and that a top asking price of €100m might be more realistic.

“Yes, 5 per cent of the collection is extraordinary, but the remaining 95 per cent is insignificant,” one antiquarian bookseller told the Financial Times.
I'm curious to know more about the Dead Sea Scroll fragments in the collection. Not that I'm planning to submit a bid.

Background here and here.

JTS rabbinical grads honored

AWARDS: Jewish Theological Seminary to honor 3 prolific, longtime rabbinical grads. Rabbi David Geffen, along with Professors Lee Israel Levine and Aaron Demsky will receive the Louis Finkelstein Award at the JTS-Schocken Institute for Jewish Research in Jerusalem (Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post).
The Jewish Theological Seminary will on Tuesday honor three rabbinical graduates from 50 years ago who made aliya and went on to excel in their fields of expertise.

Rabbi David Geffen, along with Professors Lee Israel Levine and Aaron Demsky will receive the Louis Finkelstein Award at the JTS-Schocken Institute for Jewish Research in Jerusalem.

Dr Beverly Gribetz, another JTS alumnus, will receive the Solomon Schechter Award for Jewish Education in recognition of her contributions to The State of Israel on Tuesday night as well.

Geffen, Levine and Demsky, were ordained by the JTS rabbinical school in New York in 1965.
Congratulations to all four, but the one of special interest to PaleoJudaica is Lee Levine:
Levine’s work focused on Jewish history and archaeology. He earned a PhD from Columbia University in New York, and was invited in the 1970s to teach at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem by the late archaeologist, politician and IDF Chief of Staff, Yigal Yadin.

Levine taught at the Institute for Archaeology at The Hebrew University and became a professor in 1985.

He wrote 13 books, edited another 12 works, and published about 200 academic papers.

He also founded the Tali network of schools and helped establish the Schechter Institute where he served as its first president.
Some past posts on Professor Levine's work are here, here, here, and here.

YU student research presentations

YESHIVA UNIVERSITY NEWS: Sharing Exceptional Research in Judaic Studies.
Yeshiva College Students Selected to Present at Princeton Jewish Studies Conference
Two Yeshiva College students have been invited to present 15-minute lectures on their research at Princeton University’s inaugural Undergraduate Jewish Studies Conference on February 14, 2016. Yeshiva University is the only institution besides Princeton to be represented twice at the conference, which draws together outstanding students from universities across the country to share ideas and connect with other highly-motivated undergraduates.

Yakov Ellenbogen, a junior majoring in history from Sharon, Massachusetts, will present his work on the demonology of the Ramban, in which Ellenbogen closely examines Ramban’s attitudes on the classification and abilities of demons and how they interact with humanity, comparing those attitudes to those held by Ramban’s non-Jewish contemporaries.


Samuel Berkovitz, a senior at Yeshiva College majoring in Jewish studies from Far Rockaway, New York, will share his research on the prohibition against carrying objects on Shabbat as recorded in Second Temple-era literature, such as the Book of Jubilees or the Dead Seas Scrolls. ...
Congratulations to both.

The IAA responds to Mazar

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Prominent archaeologist claims Western Wall construction will cause irreparable damage. Less than 48 hours after cabinet approved historic overhaul for a gender-neutral prayer space, Hebrew University professor says construction will “absolutely ruin the site” (DANIEL K. EISENBUD, Jerusalem Post).
The significant upgrade to the Western Wall’s controversial egalitarian prayer section at Robinson’s Gate will ruin Judaism’s “jewel of archeology,” an internationally recognized archeologist from the Hebrew University contended Tuesday.

Less than 48 hours after the cabinet approved a historic overhaul for the gender-neutral prayer space, Dr. Eilat Mazar, of HU’s Institute of Archeology, said the construction will “absolutely ruin the site” by turning an irreplaceable archeological landmark into a religious site.

Her objections were covered in yesterday's post, but this article goes into somewhat more detail. And it includes this new information:
Despite Mazar’s scathing rebuke of the project, the Israel Antiquities Authority, which approved and will oversee the expansion, issued a brief statement saying it stands by its position, claiming the construction and resulting changes will be “minor.”

“In reaching the agreement, the IAA demanded measures to continue to maintain the character of the archeological surroundings,” it said.

Meanwhile, the left-wing NGO Emek Shaveh echoed Mazar’s concerns and further condemned the construction as an egregious violation of the Old City’s delicate status quo.

We'll see what happens.

€500K grant for DSS research

Half a million euro NWO/FWO grant for Dead Sea Scrolls research
Were different communities involved in the production and interpretation of these manuscripts more than 2000 years ago?

February 02, 2016

Analysis of the content of the Dead Sea Scrolls has revealed that the different texts present a religiously diverse picture. The development of early Judaism over time is a possible explanation for this – or could there have been different religious communities, to which the scribes of the manuscripts belonged? NWO-FWO has awarded a EUR 500,000 grant for research to Professor Mladen Popović of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen and Professor Eibert Tigchelaar of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at KU Leuven.

Generous grant
It has just been announced that Cooperation Flanders, a joint initiative of FWO (the Research Foundation - Flanders ) and NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research), has awarded a EUR 500,000 grant for research into this. The research project, entitled Models of Textual Communities and Digital Palaeography of the Dead Sea Scrolls, will be led by Professor Mladen Popović from the Qumran Institute of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen and Professor Eibert Tigchelaar from the Biblical Studies research unit of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at KU Leuven. The support of NWO/FWO will make it possible for the universities of Groningen and Leuven, with two leading international research centres in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, to further intensify their collaboration both now and in the future. Popović and Tigchelaar’s research team will be aided by two PhD students. The research is expected to take four years, and a conference and workshops will also be held.


Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The Western Wall compromise and archaeology

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Reform prayer section to erase last signs of Temple destruction. Archaeologist warns government compromise to expand non-Orthodox Kotel prayer section will destroy priceless Jewish heritage. (Shimon Cohen, Arutz Sheva).
Dr. Eilat Mazar of Hebrew University's archaeology institute spoke to Arutz Sheva about the government's new decision to expand the non-Orthodox mixed prayer section of the Western Wall (Kotel), in the southern part of the Kotel.

Mazar warned that the decision to construct yet another prayer section for Reform Jews, in an expansion of a similar space built in 2013, could prove disastrous for the last remaining area where signs of the destruction of the Second Temple just under 2,000 years ago can be witnessed.

"In the archaeological park at the feet of the Western Wall there is only one section that is exposed and can be viewed. All the rest is underground. This is the southernmost section where the Herodian Quarter from the days of the Second Temple are preserved the way they were," she said.

Mazar added that "in the excavations of my grandfather Professor (Binyamin) Mazar a giant rockslide of the walls that the Romans destroyed on the Temple Mount was discovered."

She noted that the rockslide from the Temple's walls was excavated over the years, and "when they expanded the archaeological park - they moved the southern portion of Herodian road. What remains from all this impressive massive rockslide of these great stones is just a pile of a few dozen meters in a very narrow portion in this section."

The site of the remaining ruins of the Temple walls is exactly the point where the new Reform and Conservative prayer section is planned.

One David Newman has an Opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post which refers to IAA objections to the plan. : Borderline views: The Antiquities Authority’s campaign against pluralism at the Western Wall. Just as the environmentalists may not like turning to the defense establishment for assistance, so we would assume the archaeologists do not like serving the interests of the Orthodox establishment.I cannot find any other references to these objections of the IAA, but Mr. Newman summarizes them as follows:
However, the opposition of the Antiquities Authority to the preparation of a separate space further along the wall for non-Orthodox and mixed-gender prayer on the basis that this will prevent further excavations of one of the most important ancient Jewish sites in Israel, as well as limiting access to those who came to see the archaeology rather than for prayer, serves the interests of the Orthodox community, who are strongly opposed to such forms of alternative prayer.
.He summarizes his own view as follows:
Strange coalitions often emerge when interests are threatened. It is unlikely that in the most recent case of the prayer sites at the Western Wall, such a coalition was planned in advance. But the opposition of the Antiquities Authority to this week’s government decision serves the interests of other lobbyists – in this case the Orthodox community – who must be rubbing their hands with glee at this unexpected intervention against religious pluralism.
I can't say I find the essay particular illuminating. It attempts to explain the political motivations of the various parties involved, which is fine, but it does not respond the archaeological objections to the plan, nor does it refer to Dr. Mazar's objections, which sound more urgent.

To make matters more complicated, the Grant Mufti of Jerusalem, for his own reasons, finds himself significantly in agreement with Dr. Mazar and the Orthodox: Grand Mufti condemns new Jewish egalitarian prayer section at Western Wall. In a press statement he released on Monday, Hussien claimed that the prayer space adjacent to the Western Wall is “the property of the Islamic waqf that was taken by the Israeli occupation in 1967.” (KHALED ABU TOAMEH, Jerusalem Post).

If you are having trouble visualizing the proposed changes, have a look at this article: 3 Maps That Explain The Western Wall Compromise (Ben Sales, JTA).

To be clear, Dr. Mazar does not object to the concept in principle. Rather, because of the archaeological problems with this plan she says "Find another plan." For my part, I am not an expert on the details of the geography of the Temple Mount and its vicinity, but I am very concerned by the objections raised by Dr. Mazar and I would like to see them addressed by someone who is. Perhaps Leen Ritmeyer will weigh in on this one?

UPDATE (3 February): More here.

Jewish Law Annual 21 (2015)

H-JUDAIC: TOC: The Jewish Law Annual 21. Some of the articles deal with ancient Jewish law.

More on the new Lod Mosaic

ARCHAEOLOGY: ‘This is the best of the Roman tradition': A new mosaic unveiled in Israel (Apollo Magazine).
A second Roman floor was found at the site of the Lod mosaic in 2009. Archaeologist Amir Gorzalczany, of the Israel Antiquities Authority, tells Imelda Barnard what this recently unveiled discovery reveals about the villa that housed them 1,700 years ago
What does the new mosaic depict?
It’s a very rich, late Roman work, composed of rectangular concentric frames. Inside are nine medallions, octagonal in shape: five of these depict animals fighting or hunting; two depict fish, showing species from the Mediterranean Sea; and two others reveal birds – doves and partridges beside objects, including an amphora and a basket of flowers. Based on the ceramic shards found during the excavation, and on numismatic – as well as artistic – grounds, we have dated it to the 3rd century. This mosaic is the best of the Roman tradition.
Background here. And there are many posts on the first Lod Mosaic and its recent international peregrinations here and links.

Action adventure tales in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Talmud: We Don’t Negotiate With Terrorists. This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ features captives, kidnappers, and extortionists; ransom, escape, and stonings—and black magic.
If you were to make a movie about the Talmud, the hero would have to be Reish Lakish. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, usually referred to as Reish Lakish, had a biography more typical of an action hero than a sage. His first career was as a gladiator in the Roman circus, before Rabbi Yochanan convinced him to devote his life to Torah. In this week’s Daf Yomi reading, in Gittin 47a, there was a story about Reish Lakish that testified to his combination of strength and cunning. Apparently, there was a tradition among gladiators that before one was put to death, he was granted any wish he asked for. When Reish Lakish was about to be killed, then, he asked he asked his captors, “I want to tie you up and have you sit, and I will strike each of you one and a half times.”

Probably they should have smelled a rat ...
Probably. Good story though.

As Mr. Kirsch notes, the attention to the subject of hostage-taking for ransom indicates that it was not an infrequent occurrence. We have seen many stories, not least in these columns, which have shown how difficult it is for us moderns to imagine the brutal and degrading world the ancients took for granted.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Biblical Studies Carnival CXX

BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL CXX has been published by Tim Bulkeley at Sansblogue.

Monday, February 01, 2016

SBL MEGA (etc.) 2016 CFP

THE SOCIETY OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE AND AMERICAN ACADEMY OF RELIGION ANNUAL MEETINGS are in San Antonio, Texas on 19-22 November 2016. The Call for Papers for both is open. (The link leads to the SBL one.) Here is the CFP for the SBL's MEGA Section:

Program Unit Type: Section
Accepting Papers? Yes
Call For Papers: For its open session, the Mysticism, Esotericism and Gnosticism in Antiquity (MEGA) Section invites papers on any theme or text related to direct knowledge of the divine or God. Papers on the subject of amulets and inscribed religious objects are especially welcome for a special session on this topic. An invited book review session is also planned with the following books featured: April D. DeConick. 2016. The Gnostic New Age: How a Countercultural Spirituality Revolutionized Religion From Antiquity to Today (Columbia University Press); Frances L. Flannery. 2015. Understanding Apocalyptic Terrorism: Countering the Radical Mindset (Routledge); Andrei Orlov. 2015. Divine Scapegoats: Demonic Mimesis in Early Jewish Mysticism (SUNY).
Follow the link for details regarding submitting a paper.

Other bloggers have been noting the CFPs for other program units. Here are a couple I have come across recently:

James McGrath: 2016 AAR Call for Papers: Traditions of Eastern Late Antiquity;

Liv Ingeborg Lied: SBL Book History and Biblical Literatures CFP.

Philological excavation of the Web

CAROLINE T. SCHROEDER IS LOOKING FOR: Coptic and Syriac on the early WWW.


The Virtual Bible Project

ASOR BLOG: Virtual Bible Project [PODCAST]. Cross-file under Technology Watch.

Jesus dissed the apostles?

NEW TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA WATCH: What Jesus Thought of the Apostles (James McGrath). The quotation is amusing, although taken out of context. But it's a good way to get people to notice the text.

Jewish Studies Professorship at Case Western

H-JUDAIC: JOB: Case Western University, Abba Hillel Silver Professorship in Jewish Studies
The Department of Religious Studies at Case Western Reserve University invites applications and nominations for a senior position (professor or associate professor) for the Abba Hillel Silver Professorship in Jewish Studies. Associate professors must demonstrate a record of publications, including monograph, as well as other evidence of scholarly accomplishments. Professors must have national or international recognition for their scholarship, an expansive record of publications, and the promise of on-going productivity. The successful applicant must also demonstrate a commitment to teaching. Area of research specialization is open.

Follow the link for further particulars. The review of applications begins on 25 February 2016.

Sunday, January 31, 2016


YONA SABAR: Hebrew word of the week: Tahtonim “underwear, panties.”
In Rabbinic Hebrew, taHtonim means “worldly, as the human body” versus elyonim, “celestial; as the human soul” (Rashi on Genesis 2:7).
That's quite a semantic shift.

Talk Gnosis: McGrath on the Mandaeans

JAMES MCGRATH is featured a Talk Gnosis Interview about the Mandaeans. This links to video of the first 20 minutes of the interview. The full video is only available to subscribers, but you can listen to the full audio file at the link given in this post.

Some past PaleoJudaica posts on the Mandaeans (Mandeans) are collected here.

Gorgias Press

SYRIAC WATCH: Why Gorgias Matters (Philip Jenkins, The Anxious Bench).
Writings from the eastern churches, above all in Syriac, survive in large quantities, although they are not easily accessible to most Western scholars. Hence the enormous significance of the Gorgias Press, based in Piscataway, NJ, which tries to make these materials readily available. Gorgias was founded in 2001, by George Kiraz. The Press “is an independent academic publisher of books and journals covering several areas related to religious studies, the world of ancient western Asia, classics, and Middle Eastern studies. Specific areas of our current specializations are studies in Ancient Near East, Arabic and Islam, Archaeology, Bible, Classics, Early Christianity, Judaism, Linguistics, Syriac, and Ugaritic.”


To give some idea of what I am talking about, just imagine an alternate world where Christianity had boomed in Asia but not in Western Europe, and where Latin writings were largely lost to scholarship. Then imagine the experience of a historian suddenly discovering the forgotten texts of these obscure characters called Augustine, Gregory the Great, Benedict, Thomas Aquinas …. Then felt I like some watcher of the skies when a new planet swims into his ken.
Some ancient Jewish writings whose originals are now lost still survive in Syriac, notably 4 Ezra (also in Latin) and 2 Baruch.

Jewish Law postdoc at the Hebrew University

Eligible candidates from Israel or overseas must have completed their doctorate, from 2011 onward. Candidates who research Jewish law will be considered from a variety of academic disciplines (including Jewish philosophy, history, religious studies, social sciences, and other relevant fields).
The bold emphasis is in the original. Follow the link for further particulars. The application deadline is 15 February 2016.

The scribe of the Leningrad Codex

DREW LONGACRE: Samuel ben Jacob and the Leningrad Codex. The scribe who wrote the Leningrad Codex (the text basis for the widely used Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia etc.) appears in the January 2016 Taylor-Schecter Cairo Geniza fragment of the month.