Saturday, September 17, 2016

Messiahs of history and faith

REMNANT OF GIANTS: Can we distinguish the Christ of Faith from the Man of History? (Deane Galbraith). Indeed. PaleoJudaica has many past posts on Rebbe Menaḥem Mendel Schneerson, some of which are relevant to Deane's post. Start here and follow the links. See this one in particular. And I have some similar reflections about Shabbetai Zvi, the seventeenth-century mystical messiah of sin, here.

More on those cuneiform cookies

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: How in the World Did Cuneiform Cookies Become a Thing? (Aviya Kushner, The Forward).

Ms. Kushner follows up her earlier essay on the importance of dead languages like Akkadian with an interview with the originator of the cuneiform cookie recipe, Penn Museum Keeper Katy Blanchard. Excerpt comment from Ms. Blanchard:
I suppose it simply comes down to this: We have an amazing collection here at the museum, a collection that often inspires the people it works with. I’m incredibly lucky to work with amazing objects from amazing cultures. And not everyone gets a chance to work with this material and have it be part of their everyday life. So I wanted to give other people a chance to share it. For me it wasn’t just for the language, but for the cookies, that was what made it fun. If it’s cuneiform cookies, or a brownie ziggurat, or I recently cross-stitched our famous bull-headed lyre from Ur: I want these things to be part of everyone’s everyday life.

National Humanities Medal for Pagels

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Historian of religion Pagels awarded National Humanities Meda.
Princeton University faculty member Elaine Pagels, an authority on the religions of late antiquity and the author of "The Gnostic Gospels" and "Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas," has been named a recipient of the 2015 National Humanities Medal. The announcement was made today by the White House. The medal will be conferred by President Barack Obama at a ceremony at the White House on Sept. 22, which will be webcast live.

The medal honors an individual or organization whose work has deepened the nation's understanding of the human experience, broadened citizens' engagement with history and literature, or helped preserve and expand Americans' access to cultural resources. Pagels was among 12 recipients of the award.

Congratulations to Professor Pagels.

"Sacred Journeys" at Baylor

RELOCATION: Baylor museum to offer ‘Sacred Journeys’ exhibit (Harker Heights Herald).
WACO — Each year, more than 330 million people around the world journey to sacred places to perform acts of devotion, express faith or seek enlightenment or healing.

From Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, visitors to Baylor University’s Mayborn Museum Complex will learn about those pilgrimages through the exhibition National Geographic Sacred Journeys. The exhibit, created with National Geographic photography, recreates places, spaces and events so visitors can observe, discuss and learn about the history and beliefs behind spiritual travels around the world.

This marks the only time the 7,000-square-foot exhibition will travel from The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, where it opened in 2015.

The eight featured sites replicated in the exhibition include:

The Western Wall of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, Israel

Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem, the site of Muhammad’s ascent to heaven

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, site of Jesus’ crucifixion

The Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to which all Muslims are expected to make a pilgrimage, or Hajj, once in their lives

Tepeyac Hill and the Roman Catholic Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Mexico

Allahabad and Sangam at the confluence of three rivers sacred to Hindus at the Ganges River in India, site of some of the largest gatherings of humans on earth

Bodh Gaya, birthplace of Buddhism, and the Bodh Tree, where Gautama Buddha achieved enlightenment in Bihar, India

Caves in the bluffs along the Dead Sea in Qumran, Israel, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered

The second one requires a bit of clarification. The story of Muhammad's night vision (Al-Miraj) is based on later interpretations of a couple of very allusive passages in the Qur'an. I have no reason to doubt the correctness of these interpretations, but what they claim is that Muhammad had a vision of ascending to heaven from Jerusalem. The "from Jerusalem" element was part of the vision. He never visited Jerusalem in non-visionary reality. More on this here and here.

The Sacred Journeys exhibition also includes fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls and a large stone from the Western Wall. The Indianapolis exhibition was noted here and here. Still no indication of which Dead Sea Scroll fragments are on display.

Ramat Rachel

ANOTHER ARCHAEOLOGICAL GARDEN IN ISRAEL: The kibbutz outside Jerusalem built atop an ancient palace. Ramat Rachel’s Archaeological Gardens tell the story of the Roman legionnaires, Judean kings and Assyrian conquerors, and others who lived and built there (AVIVA AND SHMUEL BAR-AM, Times of Israel). Excerpt:
Along with its other attractions, Ramat Rachel boasts a fantastic archaeological site that is open to visitors all day, every day. Developed by the Jewish National Fund, the Tourism Ministry and Ramat Rachel itself, it is the only one of its kind in the country in which a private enterprise like a kibbutz invested both time and money, yet refuses to take an entrance fee.

Called the Ramat Rachel Archaeological Gardens, the site was discovered in 1954 when the kibbutz decided to build a water tower on top of an overgrown hill. Because ancient shards and a Jewish burial cave were found nearby in the early 1930s, the Israel Antiquities Authority sponsored a salvage operation at the site. It was during these excavations that archaeologist Yochanan Aharoni unearthed artifacts dating back to the time of the Judean kings.

Over the next eight years more excavations were carried out, with findings that appeared to indicate that a royal citadel had been located on the hill way back in the 8th century BCE. Aharoni concluded that it had belonged to a Judean king – perhaps Johaikim; others believed that King Hezekiah’s palace had stood at the site. And for the next half century everyone assumed that they were viewing Judean remains.

Excavations were renewed in 2004, but with astounding results: the palace was found to be much larger than was originally thought, and had been variously inhabited by the Assyrians, Persians and Babylonians. Incredibly, despite the fact that there isn’t a major water source anywhere in the area, the site features a large collection of bathing pools and cisterns.
And read on for the remains from the Second Temple and Byzantine periods.

The other archaeological garden that was recently in the news is the new one at the IDF Kirya base in Tel Aviv. Past posts on the archaeology of Ramat Rachel are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The inscription on that ancient weight

EPIGRAPHY: Rare High Priest’s stone weight from Second Temple period found in Jerusalem. Asked how it felt to have the soot of one of Judaism’s most historic events on his flesh, Gutfeld paused thoughtfully for a moment. “It is amazing when you think about what you are digging.” (Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post).

This article has some new information on the discovery and decipherment of the inscription on the weight. On the latter:
“While I was digging in the burnt layer, I found a stone weight covered with soot, and only one of the 600 stone weights uncovered from the Second Temple period had a Hebrew inscription. So, I looked at it and smiled to myself thinking maybe it’ll have an inscription, and when I put it in a bucket of water and took it out I started to shiver.”

Immersion in the water, Gutfeld said, revealed two lines of inscribed text.

“The lower line had the name of the family of a high priest named ‘Katros’ written in Aramaic, but we could not understand the meaning of the upper line until recently, which is why we delayed publication of the find until now,” he said.

After years of analysis, Gutfeld said it was recently determined that the first line also was inscribed with the family’s name, but in ancient Persian.

“It was used to measure weight on a scale – maybe even for objects in the Temple,” he explained. “So it makes sense that the family name was inscribed on the stone.”

Moreover, Gutfeld said the family is criticized in the Mishnah for being corrupt and buying the title of priesthood.

“It was very popular during the Second Temple period to buy into the priesthood,” he said.
Background here.

Results of favorite museum survey

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Survey Results: Favorite Museum (Todd Bolen). The quote on the Shrine of the Book is from me. I am surprised that no one mentioned the Chicago Oriental Institute Museum, which I also considered nominating.

Background here.

That Palmyra portal reconstruction again

DIABOLICAL PORTAL WATCH: Arch from Temple of Ba'al to Stand in NYC (Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, Breaking Israel News).
Despite initially cancelling plans to erect a reproduction of the Victory Arch that stood for 1,800 years in front of the Temple of Ba’al in Palmyra, the Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA) has announced they will recreate the arch destroyed by the Islamic State (ISIS) in New York City’s city Hall Park on September 19th.

We've been through this before. The Arch of Triumph was not the entrance to the Temple of Bel. The Temple had its own portal, and presumably (not my area of expertise) that is what one would use to invoke Baal should one be inclined for some reason to do so. But the Temple of Bel also has been used as a church and a mosque in the interim, which I suppose would dilute any Baal-summoning powers considerably.

This current Breaking Israel News article seems to be aware of much of the above, but still tries to find something "disturbing" in the situation. But a connection between the Parthians and the lost tribes of Israel isn't persuasive. In any case, another copy of the Arch of Triumph has already been displayed in London and I have found no indication that anything bad came through.

Cross-file under Palmyra Watch. The many past posts pertaining to Palmyra are here and follow the links.

BAJS CFP: Jews on the Move

H-JUDAIC: CFP: 'Jews on the Move: Exploring the movement of Jews, objects, texts, and ideas in space and time', British Association for Jewish Studies (BAJS) Conference 2017, Edinburgh 10-12 July 2017.
From the earliest accounts travel and migration, movement across space and time characterise Jewish history. No less crucial than the movement of people is the movement of texts, objects, and ideas, which travel both physically and intellectually as generations in distant locations engage with these at different times and places. Jews themselves are associated with travel and migration, historically and in cultural production. This conference invites contributions of papers and panel proposals within the broad theme of the conference. What follows is a list of thematic headings which is indicative, but not exhaustive:
  • Jews and migration
  • Jews in / and the archive
  • Texts which move
  • Jewish journeys, journeys of Jews
  • Literary explorations of travel, movements, and migration and their consequences
  • Displaying Jews: museums, heritage, art
  • Jewish objects: from vernacular and ritual to display and memory
As usual with BAJS conferences, papers on topics unrelated to the conference theme are also welcome, including proposals by graduate students wishing to present on their doctoral research.
Follow the link for further particulars. Professor Charlotte Hempel has a keynote address involving the Dead Sea Scrolls. The deadline for submission of paper and panel proposals is 31 January 2017.

Why Akkadian (etc.) still matters

PHILOLOGY RULES! Why Dead Languages Like Akkadian Still Matter (Aviya Kushner, The Forward).
I grew up hearing the Code of Hammurabi read out loud, in Akkadian, at the dining-room table. I did not know that my graduate-student mother was one of Akkadian’s few regular readers. The language of the ancient Akkad region, or modern-day Iraq, is considered a “dead language,” just like Ugaritic and Phoenician. All these dead tongues, however, fed into the Hebrew Bible, the most read book in history, and so they have a form of eternal life.

And so the language my mother read sounded familiar. Abum is like abba, the Hebrew word for father; imum like ima, or mother, and kalbum like kelev, or dog. For years I told myself that Akkadian, its strict legal code, and its dramatic descriptions of what would be done to losers in battle (hint: towering piles of body parts displayed for all to see) was my mother’s terrain, not mine. But the truth is that it is nearly impossible to avoid Akkadian’s influence on all of us.

Indeed. An entertaining essay that rambles from the Atrahasis Epic to the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary office to a recipe for cuneiform cookies. I also noted the latter here. Some years ago I wrote a blog post on the same theme in response to another essay in The Forward: Why we need Akkadian (and the humanities!).

Thursday, September 15, 2016

More on the Bauckham Festschrift

EERDWORD BLOG: Honoring Richard Bauckham: In the Fullness of Time.

Background here and here.

NT position at UCLA

JOB ADVERT: Assistant Professor in New Testament and Early Christianity.
The Department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures and the Program in the Study of Religion at the University of California, Los Angeles, announce a search for a new tenure-track position in New Testament and Early Christianity at the rank of Assistant Professor to be filled effective July 1, 2017. We are looking for applicants with Ph.D. in hand by July 2017. Applications are invited from scholars with research specialties in New Testament and Early Christianity, including its intersections with Second Temple Judaism, Rabbinics, and Eastern Christianity. Ability to work in relevant primary languages is expected (esp. Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac). Candidate will teach a range of classes including large General Education courses, small graduate seminars and demonstrate or likely commit to diversity related to teaching, research and service.
Follow the link for further particulars. The "recruitment period" is 14 September through 1 November 2016. It's good to see a New Testament post that emphasizes Hebrew and Aramaic alongside Greek.

INL acquires Jewish Afghan manuscripts

NEW COLLECTION: Rare findings from ancient Jewish community of Afghanistan. The Israeli National Library acquires massive and unique collection of ancient Jewish documents from Afganistan (Arutz Sheva).
The National Library of Israel in Jerusalem has acquired a one of a kind collection of manuscripts which will revolutionize our understanding about the history and culture of the legendary Silk Road's ancient Jewish community. The new collection, comprised of approximately 250 pages dating to the early 11th century, constitutes the largest body of original materials from the region prior to the modern era. Complementing the NLI's existing collection of 29 pages from the widely-reported "Afghan Geniza", Because of the widespread destruction during the Mongol Conquests, it represents virtually the only primary source for information about this once-thriving Jewish community, as well as the region's Islamic and Persian cultures prior to the Mongol invasion. This acquisition has been made possible through the generous support of the William Davidson Foundation and the Haim and Hanna Salomon Fund.

The acquisition of the 29 pages from the Afghan "geniza" archive in 2013 was noted here. Follow the links there for background on the archive and see also here and here. The newly acquired manuscripts include more from that archive and also some additional texts from the early 13th century.

Who wrote the Book of Job?

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS ("NO, REALLY" EDITION): Who really wrote the Book of Job? Job, possibly the strangest book in the bible, is based on legends going back thousands of years, and is written in a very unusual form of Hebrew (Elon Gilad, Haaretz).

I think Qoheleth and Job are both in the running for the strangest book in the Hebrew Bible. Ezekiel has his moments too. But be that as it may, this article gives a good overview of the scholarly state of the question concerning the origins of the Book of Job. The only thing I would add is to mention Bruce Zuckerman's theory that the poetic dialogues in Job are a satire of the original story, which is more or less the one found in the prose prologue/epilogue. I think his theory has some explanatory value and is worth keeping in mind.

Friedberg Genizah Project update

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Completing the 118-Year-Old Puzzle of the Cairo Genizah (Abigail Klein Leichman, The Jewish Voice).
Israeli supercomputer is matching up 200,000 text fragment images in historic breakthrough for ancient manuscript scholarship.
Think of it as the world’s oldest and largest jigsaw puzzle: Images of about 200,000 fragments of ancient Jewish documents, held in 67 separate locations across the world, are being matched up digitally by a powerful computer network in the basement of Tel Aviv University.
At the rate of half a million comparisons per minute, the task ran from May 16 through the end of June.
This awesome accomplishment of the Jerusalem-based Friedberg Genizah Project finally will allow scholars – and anyone else with Internet access – to examine complete pages of documents retrieved more than a century ago from the legendary Cairo genizah.
In this crypt in the old Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo, Egypt, Jews discarded records and religious writings between the eighth and 17th centuries. They range from sacred texts to letters, poems and receipts giving a glimpse into medieval life in the Middle East.
Most of the trove was in fragments that ended up scattered among libraries and private collectors over the years. Putting them together in their original form seemed impossible and only a few scholars found “joins” among the pieces.
“The project has been waiting 120 years until someone could solve the riddle of the Cairo genizah, and my heritage gives me a special connection to the project,” says Cairo-born Prof. Yaacov Choueka, chief computerization scientist for the Friedberg Genizah Project, launched in 2006 by Albert Dov Friedberg of Canada in a joint venture with the Jewish Manuscript Preservation Society of Toronto.

It's not entirely clear to me whether the article is saying that the matching up of the fragments is now entirely completed. But in any case it is clearly at least well underway. It's been a few years since I've seen an update on the project, so it's good to hear that it has made substantial progress. Past posts on it are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ancient inscribed weight found in Jerusalem

EPIGRAPHY: Excavation unveils scale weight belonging to high priest. An archaeological dig in the Old City of Jerusalem has unearthed a weight that is marked with the name of the high priest from the Second Temple (Eli Mandelbaum, Ynet News).
Nearly 2,000 years after the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, the archaeologist Dr. Oren Gutfeld of Hebrew University of Jerusalem has found a scale weight from that period that apparently belonged to the family of the high priest—and which has his name carved on it.

The weight was found as part of the excavation carried out at the Tiferet Israel Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the capital's Old City. The Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out the dig together with Hebrew University, and it is being funded by the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, Ltd.

This is the second time that such a weight has been uncovered. Excavations at the nearby Burnt House found a similar weight.

Gutfeld explained that he himself unearthed the weight, which has two lines of Aramaic text and a lyre between them. This was initially obscured by a burnt layer, which is presumably from the burning of Jerusalem. While the first line of text has not been fully deciphered, the family name of the high priest was discernible.

Cross-file under Aramaic Watch? It doesn't sound to me as though they are very sure which language the inscription is written in.

Statues of Aphrodite and Cupid excavated in Petra

NABATEAN (NABATAEAN) WATCH: Researchers unearth ancient mythological statues in Jordan (Science Codex).
A team of North Carolina-based researchers helped unearth more clues this summer about the ancient Nabatean city of Petra in Jordan.

As part of a larger excavation at the site, the group of North Carolina State University and East Carolina University faculty and students discovered two marble statues of the mythological goddess Aphrodite -- artifacts that dig co-director Tom Parker describes as "absolutely exquisite."


The statues, which also feature the mythological god Cupid, are largely intact from pedestal to shoulders. Both statue heads and much of their upper extremities were also recovered at the site and will be restored.

Sounds like an important discovery. Too bad the photos in the article are missing. For background on Petra and the Nabateans (Nabataeans), see here and links.

UPDATE (23 September): This link has the photos.

Job at Penn: material culture and religion

THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Religious Studies Assistant Professor in Material Culture Studies and Religion.
The Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania invites applications for a tenure-track assistant professor in the field of Religious Studies and Material/Visual Culture. Time period, religious tradition, and sub-specialization are open and may include scholars who approach the study of religion through related methodological approaches in the areas of art history, archaeology, architecture, ethnography, film and media studies, gender and embodiment, material texts, and visual studies. The search committee is interested in specialists with research experience in religions in Africa and the African Diaspora, the Americas, Asia, or the Middle East. The successful candidate for this new faculty position should have a compelling and original research agenda and a commitment to pursue it within the interdisciplinary framework offered by the Department of Religious Studies, the School of Arts and Sciences, and the wider University. Recent PhDs are particularly welcome to apply.
Follow the link for further particulars. "Review of applications will begin November 1, 2016 and continue until the position is filled."

Gold Nero coin from Mt. Zion excavation

NUMISMATICS: Rare Roman gold coin found in Jerusalem at Mt. Zion archaeological dig (Science Daily).
Date: September 13, 2016

Source: University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Summary: Though the Roman Empire occupied Jerusalem and certainly spread its currency there, the only known Roman coins from the ancient Jewish capital have all come to historians and archaeologists through collectors, with uncertain provenance. An exception is a gold coin recently discovered near excavations of wealthy first century priestly houses on Jerusalem's Mt. Zion. Dated to 56 CE, it may be an remnant of looting at the time of the city's destruction in 70 CE.

The discovery of a rare gold coin bearing the image of the Roman Emperor Nero at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte's archaeological excavations on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, has just been announced by the archaeologists in charge of the project, Drs. Shimon Gibson, James Tabor, and Rafael Lewis.

Past posts on the Mt. Zion excavation and the other important discoveries there are collected here.

ISIS, looting, and Israel

THAT DOESN'T SOUND GOOD: Israel's Antiques Market Awaiting ISIS-looted Treasures (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
Like in the case of antiques plundered from Iraq after the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime, experts predict that lost Syrian treasures are bound to turn up in shops in Jerusalem’s Old City and elsewhere around the country.
The situation is grim, but so far the Israel Antiquities Authority seems to be on top of it:
Judging by what happened in Iraq, which also suffered large-scale antiquities theft after Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled in 2003, there’s usually a lag time of several years between the theft and when the artifact hits the market, Klein noted.

About six months ago, Interpol and UNESCO announced a worldwide operation to seize antiquities looted from Iraq. Israel participated in this effort, and IAA inspectors searched antiquities shops in Jerusalem’s Old City and elsewhere.

Hundreds of items were seized in these searches, including clay tablets with cuneiform writing, figurines and incantation bowls (inscribed with curses or oaths that were used in certain rituals). The courts recently approved their confiscation by the state, and Klein said the goal is eventually to return them to the Iraqi government via an international agency.

Until recently, Israel was a major center for international trade in illegal antiquities, due to the comparative leniency of its law regulating the purchase and sale of antiquities. But recently, it enacted tougher regulations, which the IAA hopes will make it much harder to deal in looted antiquities here.
The story of the raid on the shop in the Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem was noted here. Background on Palmyra is here (cf. here and here) with many, many links. Background on Dura Europos is here and many links.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

RItmeyer on those floor tiles

LEEN RITMEYER: Flooring from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Some expert commentary on the important discovery of floor tiles that are arguably associated with the Herodian Temple, as recently announced by the Temple Mount Sifting Project. One brief excerpt:
All the known opus sectile floors were laid indoors and not outdoors. These delicately constructed floors would not have survived long outside in the sometimes harsh Mediterranean climate. We suggest therefore that they came from the interior of some of the many buildings that surrounded the Temple and/or from under the colonnades around the smaller courts.
Background here and links. Cross-file under Temple Mount Watch.

Favorite museum survey

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Reader Survey: Favorite Museum. Todd Bolen asks readers for "a favorite museum related to the biblical world." I can think of many candidates, but I'm happy with the one I voted for. I'll tell you which when the results are published. Meanwhile, you can go and vote too.

Repayment of theft in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Thievery Corporation. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ how the theft of a pregnant cow leads the Talmudic sages to examine the concept of wages.
In Chapter Nine of Tractate Bava Kamma, the rabbis continue their inquiry into different kinds of injury and damage. The previous chapter examined cases of deliberate personal injury: How should someone who inflicts a bodily injury be punished? (The answer, as we saw, is not “an eye for an eye,” as the Bible recommends, but the payment of monetary compensation.) In this week’s Daf Yomi, we read about a different kind of deliberate injury: theft. Here, too, there is an explicit biblical law, stated in the Book of Leviticus, which holds that a thief must return what he stole to its original owner, plus an additional one-fifth as a penalty.

In the Talmud, however, the rabbis raise a problem that the biblical law doesn’t seem to foresee. What if a thief steals an item, and while it is in his possession it either increases or decreases in value? Say the thief steals a cow, and it subsequently becomes pregnant and gives birth to a calf. Who owns the calf, the original owner or the thief? Or, contrariwise, what if the thief steals a coin and it breaks while in his possession, rendering it worthless? Does the thief return the broken pieces of the coin, or must he pay back the value of a whole coin? Who keeps the profit or suffers the loss, the thief or the original owner?

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Lecture by Ann "Indiana Jones" Killebrew

WAIT, I THOUGHT THAT WAS ME! Institute for Studies of Religion to Host ‘Real-life Indiana Jones’ for Lecture (Baylor Media Communications).
WACO, Texas (Sept. 12, 2016) — Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) will host Ann Killebrew, associate professor of classics and ancient Mediterranean studies, Jewish studies and anthropology at Pennsylvania State University, for a lecture.

At 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016, in the Cox Lecture Hall in Armstrong Browning Library, 710 Speight Ave., in Waco.

Killebrew will speak on “The Emergence of Israel in Bible and Archaeology,” exploring the topic in light of the biblical account, New Kingdom Egyptian texts, the archaeological evidence and recent theories regarding ethnogenesis and ethnicity. Killebrew has participated in or directed numerous archaeological projects in Israel, Turkey and Egypt.

“Ann Killebrew is absolutely a world-class archaeologist,” said Philip Jenkins, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor and co-director for the Program on Historical Studies of Religion in the ISR. “She really is one of the real-life Indiana Jones characters.”

Yes, there's room for more than one. Don't miss Professor Killebrew's lecture if you're in the vicinity.

Archaeological garden in Israel

OUTDOOR MUSEUM: Largest Archaeological Garden Ever in Israel Inaugurated at IDF Kirya Base in Tel Aviv. The largest archaeological garden ever established in the State of Israel was inaugurated Monday at Camp Rabin, in the IDF Kirya Base in Tel Aviv (Hana Levi Julian, The Jewish Press).
In a festive ceremony attended by Israel Defense Force chief of staff Gadi Eizenkot, the director of the Israel Antiquities Authority and a representative of the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, the largest archaeological garden ever built in Israel was inaugurated Tuesday at the IDF Kirya base in Tel Aviv.

The exhibition – A Tumultuous City – is situated in the heart of “The City that Never Sleeps” and presents dozens of impressive items from major cities in the ancient world.

Among the most unique exhibitions are a stone that weighs six tons from the Western Wall.


Monday, September 12, 2016

The Context of Scripture, Volume 4 Supplements

The Context of Scripture, Volume 4 Supplements

Edited by K.Lawson Younger Jr.
The Context of Scripture, Volume IV Supplements offers important additions to the previously published three volumes of The Context of Scripture, a major tool for research in the Bible and the ancient Near East. It provides translations of recently discovered texts, alongside new translations of better-known texts, all of which illuminate the literary output found in the Hebrew Bible.

Just like the earlier volumes, Volume IV utilizes the same page layout and large format, generous cross-referencing to comparable Bible passages, and new, up-to-date bibliographical annotations with judicious commentary. It is a wonderful enhancement to this standard reference work of the 21st century.

This book is also available in paperback.

On the new SBL ancient artifacts policy

OTTC BLOG: SBL Policy on Scholarly Presentation and Publication of Ancient Artifacts (Drew Longacre).
The Society of Biblical Literature sent out an email yesterday to its members announcing a new SBL Policy on Scholarly Presentation and Publication of Ancient Artifacts. Essentially, the SBL Council has voted to endorse and enforce the The American Schools of Oriental Research Policy on Professional Conduct. SBL will no longer allow the initial publication or announcement--in any of its venues--of textual artifacts of unknown or illicit provenance, unless they can be documented to have been discovered and removed from the countries of their origin prior to 24 April 1972, when the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property came into effect. To some, this may be a welcome change; to others, an annoyance, to say the least. For me, it is bittersweet. I appreciate the need for greater involvement in this important ethical conversation and agree with much in the statement, but I remain skeptical of some aspects and continue to worry about oversimplifying complex issues and prematurely absolutizing short-sighted policies.

Some relevant past PaleoJudaica posts etc. are collected here.

New book on Diodorus Sicilus

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Diodorus and his Library. Notice of a new book: Michael, Rathmann. 2016. Diodor und seine “Bibliotheke”: Weltgeschichte aus der Provinz. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Diodorus is of interest to biblical studies chiefly for evidence of how Greek-speaking historians in the Persian and Hellenistic period understood the ancient Near Eastern empires, based on the legendary and muddled sources they had available to them. In my course on the book of Daniel I call their perspective "Greek Fantasy Babylon."

Aramaic singing festival in Maaloula

MODERN ARAMAIC WATCH: Aramaic singing festival in Maaloula for preserving Aramaic language (Syrian Radio and TV).
The Syrian Global Society for Preserving the Aramaic Language organized on Saturday a musical event titled “Aramia 2016” in Maaloula town in Damascus Countryside that featured songs and poetry in Aramaic.


In statements to journalists, Tourism Minister Bishr Yazigi who attended the event said that Syria hosts many priceless cultural treasures for humanity, including the Aramaic language, noting that the Syrian government provided all possible facilitations to preserve this language and promote it, and that the government values the local community’s efforts for preserving the language of Jesus Christ.

It's good to hear of the Syrian Government's enthusiasm for preserving Aramaic and supporting the Aramaic-speaking community. The world is watching.

Background on the much-persecuted city of Maaloula (Ma'aloula, Malula), one of the last bastions of spoken Aramaic, is here with many links.

The Hebrew Music Museum

IN JERUSALEM: 2 Levys bring Hebrew Music Museum to life (Deborah Fineblum, Jewish Star).
Today, the Levys’ dream has become a reality. The place attracts more than 1,000 visitors a month who come to see, and hear, what it’s all about. They’re immersed not only in the history of Jewish music, which has taken so many guises depending on place and time, but also how it ties back to the music of the two ancient Temples, one of which stood not far from their location.

Inside the museum, 260 musical instruments, from seven lands where Jews have lived in the Diaspora, are spread throughout seven rooms. Each room is decorated sumptuously in the style of the country it represents: Yemen, Morocco, Central Asia, Iraq, the Balkans. In a room develoted to Israel and Europe (don’t miss that gorgeous hand-painted ceiling), there’s a harp much like the one King David played while composing his Psalms.


Dating back much further is Jewish life in Iraq. There’s a faithful replica of the kind of Babylonian harp Jews played there 3,000 years ago. The original instrument was excavated by Germans archeologists, who’d been conducting digs in Iraq in the early 20th century.

“As amazing and beautiful as [the instruments] are, the real story is what’s behind the instruments,” Levy adds. “They were each an expression of Jewish life in these places.”

By far the highlight for most visitors is the temple room that features a large model of the Second Temple, which stood on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount for 420 years before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. Patrons put on virtual reality headsets, which took three years to develop and program, to gain an inside view of a recreation of the service going on inside the Holy Temple. This is the place to hear a seemingly universal word escape the lips of young and old alike, “wow!”

Sunday, September 11, 2016

AAR/SBL bloggers' dinner

JAMES MCGRATH: Bloggers’ Dinner at #AARSBL16. I don't think I'll be able to make it to the dinner, but we'll see. I'll try to stop by to say hi if I can.

Screnock, Traductor Scriptor

Traductor Scriptor
The Old Greek Translation of Exodus 1-14 as Scribal Activity

John Screnock, University of Oxford
In Traductor Scriptor, John Screnock situates the Old Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible within the broader scribal culture of the ancient world. Building on current methods in Septuagint studies and textual criticism, Screnock engages the evidence from Qumran, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the Old Greek to argue that the phenomena of translation and transmission are fundamentally similar. Traductor Scriptor presents a unique approach to the use of the Old Greek for textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible, based on new theoretical considerations and an in-depth analysis of text-critical data in the Old Greek translation and Hebrew manuscripts of Exodus 1–14.

Krzysztof Ulanowski (ed.), The Religious Aspect of Warfare in the Ancient Near East, Greece and Rome

The Religious Aspects of War in the Ancient Near East, Greece, and Rome
Ancient Warfare Series Volume 1

Krzysztof Ulanowski, Gdańsk University
The Religious Aspect of Warfare in the Ancient Near East, Greece and Rome is a volume dedicated to investigating the relationship between religion and war in antiquity in minute detail. The nineteen chapters are divided into three groups: the ancient Near East, Greece, and Rome. They are presented in turn and all possible aspects of warfare and its religious connections are investigated. The contributors focus on the theology of war, the role of priests in warfare, natural phenomena as signs for military activity, cruelty, piety, the divinity of humans in specific martial cases, rituals of war, iconographical representations and symbols of war, and even the archaeology of war. As editor Krzysztof Ulanowski invited both well-known specialists such as Robert Parker, Nicholas Sekunda, and Pietro Mander to contribute, as well as many young, talented scholars with fresh ideas. From this polyphony of voices, perspectives and opinions emerges a diverse, but coherent, representation of the complex relationship between religion and war in antiquity.
Only one of the essays is specifically about ancient Judaism, but many of them are also of background interest.

The Canaanites

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Who Were the Canaanites? (Owen Jarus, Live Science). Discusses the pre-biblical and biblical evidence for the Canaanites, but stops short of the Phoenicians and Carthaginians. Goes well with Jarus's earlier brief history of ancient Israel and brief history of ancient Egypt.