Saturday, September 24, 2016

The case of the missing verse

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Why Is There No Nun Verse in Ashrei? (Mitchell First, Jewish Link of New Jersey). Interesting analysis of the problem of a missing verse (that should begin with the letter nun) in the acrostic poem in Psalm 145.

There's more here on the longer passage about Nahash the Ammonite found in a copy of 1 Samuel 10/11 in one of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Armitage, Theories of Poverty in the World of the New Testament


Theories of Poverty in the World of the New Testament

[Gedanken zur Armut in der Welt des Neuen Testaments.]
2016. XVI, 301 pages.
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 423

89,00 €
sewn paper
ISBN 978-3-16-154399-9

Published in English.
David J. Armitage explores interpretations of poverty in the Greco-Roman and Jewish contexts of the New Testament, and, in the light of this, considers how approaches to poverty in the New Testament texts may be regarded as distinctive. Explanations for the plight of the poor and supposed solutions to the problem of poverty are discussed, noting the importance in Greco-Roman settings of questions about poverty's relation to virtue and vice, and the roles of fate and chance in impoverishment. Such debates were peripheral for strands of the Jewish tradition where poverty discourse was shaped by narrative frameworks incorporating transgression, curse, and the anticipated rescue of the righteous poor. These elements occur in New Testament texts, which endorse wider Jewish concern for the poor while reconfiguring hope for the end of poverty around an inaugurated eschatology centred on Jesus.

Syriac inscriptions from Kazakhstan

SYRIAC WATCH: Evidence of ancient Christianity discovered in Kazakhstan (Tom Davis, SWBTS News).
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following report is by the Tandy Institute for Archaeology’s Tom Davis, professor of archaeology and biblical backgrounds at Southwestern Seminary as well as chair of its archaeology department.
New Syriac epigraphic material on the Silk Road:
The ancient city of Ilyn Balik, known from pilgrims’ travels and historical texts, has been discovered in Kazakhstan. Historians of Christianity along the Silk Road have known of travelers’ accounts of Christian communities in the region and in the ancient city of Ilyn Balik, but now, recent excavations at the village of Usharal, 60 kilometers from the Chinese border, have uncovered the ancient city as well as the site’s cemetery, where eight gravestones have been found.

This discovery is the first archaeological evidence for a Christian community in the borders of the Republic of Kazakhstan. This discovery supports the understanding of ancient Kazakhstan as a multi-cultural center between the East and West, with Muslims, Buddhists and Christians living among the local herdsmen and nomadic tribes.


The team discovered seven inscribed gravestones clustered on the surface outside of the main area of settlement of the site. The suspected grave markers all have inscribed Nestorian-style crosses, and two of them have fragmentary inscriptions.

The new discoveries provide context for the previously discovered inscribed stone and most likely indicate an extra-mural cemetery and possibly an associated Christian community. One of the inscriptions in Old Syriac has been partially deciphered by the Tandy Institute’s epigrapher, Ryan Stokes, associate professor of Old Testament at Southwestern, and indicates a date of 1162 A.D.

HT AINA. I have noted discoveries of Syriac texts in China (see here, here, here, and here and links), but this is the first time I have encountered Syriac in Kazakhstan.

NovT TC reviews

ETC BLOG: A Bounty of Text Critical Reviews in the Latest NovT (Peter Gurry). Most of them deal with New Testament textual criticism, but one involves ancient Judaism.


THE BRITISH LIBRARY MEDIEVAL MANUSCRIPTS BLOG: Palimpsests: The Art of Medieval Recycling (Peter Toth).
The art of recycling — re-using waste materials to reduce consumption of fresh raw materials — may seem alien in a medieval context. Yet when it comes to writing, past peoples were often much more sparing than many of us today.
Seen on Facebook. Past PaleoJudaica posts on palimpsests are collected here, with subsequent posts here and here.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Tilly et al. (ed.), L'adversaire de Dieu

L'adversaire de Dieu – Der Widersacher Gottes
6. Symposium Strasbourg, Tübingen, Uppsala. 27.-29. Juni 2013 in Tübingen

Hrsg. v. Michael Tilly, Matthias Morgenstern u. Volker Henning Drecoll unter Mitarb. v. Hendrik Stoppel

[The Adversaries of God. The Sixth Strasbourg-Tübingen-Uppsala Symposium. Tübingen 27–29 June 2013.]
2016. XIV, 359 pages.
Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 364

Published in German.
This trilingual collection contains studies on how the literary guises of God’s enemies originated, how they were presented and what meaning they held in the Jewish Holy Scriptures, the Christian Bible, ancient and rabbinical Jewish writings, in early Christianity and in gnostic texts. Exegetic-philological, history of religion, Jewish- as well as conceptual and history of theology aspects are all comprehensively dealt with. Scholars from the universities of Strasbourg, Tübingen and Uppsala’s evangelical theology faculties examine Satan, Beelzebub, the Anti-Christ, the diabolical, demons, evil intent and other God-opposing forces, as well as the Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier’s treatment of evil, in their contributions.

The Los Lunas inscription, once more

NEW WORLD FORGERY WATCH: Oldest Paleo-Hebrew Ten Commandments Found Where?! (Tsivya Fox, Breaking Israel News).
It may surprise many people to learn that the oldest known Ten Commandments written in Hebrew on stone may not be in the Holy Land, but in America. The controversial carving resides west of Los Lunas, New Mexico at the bottom of a place called Hidden Mountain. Named the Los Lunas Decalogue Stone, it is also known as “Mystery Stone”, “Phoenician Inscription Rock”, or “Mystery Rock”. It contains the text of the Ten Commandments written in ancient Paleo-Hebrew.

Here we go again. The Los Lunas inscription forgery shows up in the media every few years. I replied to pretty much the same set of claims a few years ago here. If I may quote myself:
The Harvard Professor—Robert Pfeiffer—died in 1958 and it is not clear from the coverage here that he said "yes" in the sense of thinking that it was possible that it was an ancient inscription.

This [earlier] article gathers together some entertaining anecdotes and occasionally some interesting information, but ultimately it tries to find a "debate" where there is none. No epigrapher of ancient Hebrew is willing today to defend the authenticity of the inscription. (James Tabor tried once in a popular article, but this article reports that he has changed his mind.)
Further detail there. And as always, let me reiterate this:
As usual, if a trained specialist wants to publish an article in a peer-review journal which argues that the stone is really an ancient inscription that shows the presence of pre-Columbian Jews in New Mexico, I would be willing to listen to the argument. But in the meantime, it's a fake.
Follow that link for additional past posts on the subject. In particular, in this post I mentioned that the late Cyrus Gordon argued that the inscription was a genuine late antique (Samaritan) artifact. The 1995 article was in the Japanese (English-language) journal Orient and you can download it for free here. You can read his discussion of the New World inscriptions, including the Los Lunas inscription, in the first several pages. No real case is made. By real case I mean a serious, detailed paleographic and orthographic analysis. If someone wants to do that and to get it published in a peer-review journal, there would be a case to consider. There isn't now. My past posts on the Los Lunas inscription also deal with the Bat Creek stone inscription and the Newark Stones.

Still more on the Ein Gedi Leviticus scroll

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: An Early Leviticus Scroll from En-Gedi: Preliminary Publication) (Michael Segal, Emanuel Tov, William Brent Seales, Clifford Seth Parker, Pnina Shor, Yosef Porath with an Appendix by Ada Yardeni. This is the scholarly publication in Textus 2016 that generated all the recent excitement. I've only had time for a quick look at the first part of it. Given the C-14 test results given in the article, I am baffled by the original report that said they dated the scroll to the late sixth century CE.

The recent media coverage has generally been good, but a couple of headlines have gotten overly excited:

Digitally unwrapped Hebrew scroll reveals earliest copy of Old Testament Bible scripture (The Straits Times)

Scientists finally read the oldest biblical text ever found (The Independent)

There are many Dead Sea Scrolls fragments of the Hebrew Bible that are older than the oldest date posited for the Ein Gedi Leviticus Scroll. And arguably the oldest biblical text ever found was in the Ketef Hinnom silver amulets from the seventh century BCE.

Background here and links.

Interview with Dr. Ilana Sasson on Judeo-Arabic

PHILOLOGY: Recovering Judeo-Arabic. Local scholar translates Karaite Bible commentary of Yefet ben Eli (LARRY YUDELSON, Times of Israel).
When Dr. Ilana Sasson of Teaneck was growing up in Israel, the child of Iraqi immigrants, she was embarrassed by the Arabic her parents would speak at home.

“I wanted people to speak Hebrew,” she said. “Kids who had Yiddish in their house felt the same. It was more so for those of us coming from the Islamic world, since Arabic was identified as the language of the enemy.”

Her childhood self would be quite surprised, therefore, that Dr. Sasson wrote a dissertation on a Judeo-Arabic translation and commentary on the biblical book of Proverbs. A revised version of the dissertation was published this summer by Brill Publishers as “The Arabic Translation and Commentary of Yefet ben Eli on the Book of Proverbs.”

I noted the book when it came out this summer.
So what is Judeo-Arabic?

Briefly, it’s the distinctive versions of Arabic used by Jews.

But it’s not so simple.

“There is a big debate now,” Dr. Sasson said. “There’s a scholar at New York University, Dr. Ella Habiba Shohat, who claims that we shouldn’t say Judeo-Arabic, we should just say Arabic.”

That’s because “Arabic has so many dialectics and so many levels. Every ethnic group has its own. Yemenites cannot understand Moroccans, their dialects are so far apart from each other.”

Jews, Dr. Shohat argues, may have spoken a different dialect than their Muslim neighbors. But still, it was closer to their neighbors’ than that of distant Jews.

Yet in the traditional understanding of Judeo-Arabic as a unique thing, there are two possible definitions, Dr. Sasson said. “One says that anything written or said by a Jew in Arabic is by definition Judeo-Arabic. The other says anything in Arabic written in Hebrew characters is Judeo-Arabic.” (As it happened, some of the manuscripts she worked from were written in Arabic characters.)
I generally think of Judeo-Arabic as Arabic written in Hebrew letters, but that's because that type of Judeo-Arabic is relevant to my own research. As the article says, the matter is more complicated. Some past PaleoJudaica posts involving Judeo-Arabic are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

As an aside, as I have noted before, there sure is a lot of good philology going on in Teaneck, New Jersey. See here and here and links.

Mystic golem in Berlin

GOLEM WATCH: Mystic golem spotlighted in Berlin Jewish Museum exhibit. New show links Jewish mud man to artificial intelligence in metaphor for scientific advancement spiraling out of control(KIRSTEN GRIESHABER, AP/Times of Israel).

The golem in the top photo looks a bit like Laa-Laa.

Earlier PaleoJudaica posts on past and present manifestations of the Golem legend are here and many links.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

More on the Ein Gedi Leviticus scroll

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Modern Technology Unlocks Secrets of a Damaged Biblical Scroll (Nicholas Wade, NYT). This scroll is back in the news, with massive coverage in the last day. This NYT article is representative.
Nearly half a century ago, archaeologists found a charred ancient scroll in the ark of a synagogue on the western shore of the Dead Sea.

The lump of carbonized parchment could not be opened or read. Its curators did nothing but conserve it, hoping that new technology might one day emerge to make the scroll legible.

Just such a technology has now been perfected by computer scientists at the University of Kentucky. Working with biblical scholars in Jerusalem, they have used a computer to unfurl a digital image of the scroll.

It turns out to hold a fragment identical to the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible and, at nearly 2,000 years old, is the earliest instance of the text.

Most of this is old news from 2015, but the last quoted paragraph brings us to something new:
The date of the En-Gedi scroll is the subject of conflicting evidence. A carbon-14 measurement indicates that the scroll was copied around A.D. 300. But the style of the ancient script suggests a date nearer to A.D. 100. “We may safely date this scroll” to between A.D. 50 and 100, wrote Ada Yardeni, an expert on Hebrew paleography, in an article in the journal Textus. Dr. [Emanuel] Tov said he was “inclined toward a first-century date, based on paleography.”
The original reports said that the carbon dating indicated a sixth-century CE date. I don't know how we get from there to 300. And this is an interesting case where the results of materials-science testing conflict with results from a more traditional method of dating — paleography. This sort of mixed result is a reminder that we can't always take evidence from materials science as decisive. And so here is where we currently stand regarding this scroll:
Both Dr. Tov and Dr. [Michael] Segal said that scholars might come to consider the En-Gedi manuscript as a Dead Sea scroll, especially if the early date indicated by paleography is confirmed.

“It doesn’t tell us what was the original text, only that the Masoretic text is a very ancient text in all of its details,” Dr. Segal said. “And we now have evidence that this text was being used from a very early date by Jews in the land of Israel.”
The original report was noted by PaleoJudaica here, with past links on the use of non-invasive technologies and on the work of Professor Brent Seales, who accomplished the virtual opening of the scroll and who is also working on the carbonized Herculaneum scrolls. Subsequent posts mentioning the Ein Gedi Leviticus scroll are here, here, and here.

Incidentally, the assertion quoted above in the current NYT article that the manuscript "at nearly 2,000 years old, is the earliest instance of the [Masoretic] text" is open to debate. I edited a manuscript of Genesis called 4QGenesisb (mentioned here) for DJD 12 which has a text (of fragments of Genesis 1, 2, 4, and 5) which is perfectly identical to the Masoretic Text apart from one tiny spelling difference and which dates paleographically to around the same time as the Ein Gedi Leviticus scroll. I believe that the biblical manuscripts found in the Bar Kokhba-era caves (placed there c. 132-135 CE) also consistently agree with the Masoretic Text. So there was already evidence that it was very old.

Menorah engraving found in Abila, Jordan

ARCHAEOLOGY: Archaeologists Find First Sign of Jews in Ancient Abila, Jordan. A menorah carving found in a church provides the first physical evidence of a long-assumed Jewish population in the Hellenistic city (Philippe Bohstrom, Haaretz).
A menorah carved on a stone block, found in a 1400-year-old Byzantine church in Abila, Jordan is the first tangible evidence of a Jewish presence in the ancient Hellenistic city that been assumed, but not proven.

There is ample evidence of Jewish presence in the region, such as an ancient synagogue discovered in nearby Jerash. But in 36 years of excavations at Tell al-Abila, also known as Selukeia, no traces of Jews living in the Roman trading hub had been found before.

The depiction of the seven-branched menorah, with a branching three-legged base, was found on a stone in the second tier of a wall, near the floor, while excavating a Byzantine church from the 6th or 7th century CE.

The menorah stone is in a secondary context, but it must be at least somewhat older than the church into which it was built. More on the Arch of Titus and its menorah is here (scroll down for photos) and here and links. Some other past posts involving ancient menorahs are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and links.

Gardner on charity in ancient Judaism

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Charity in Ancient Judaism: Problems and Prospects (Gregg Gardner). Past posts on the writer's book, The Origins of Organized Charity in Rabbinic Judaism, are here and here. Another relevant recent AJR essay is also noted here.

The Son of David in Romans

READING ACTS: Is Jesus the Son of David? – Romans 1:3. With background from the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple-era literature.

An earlier post in Phil Long's Romans series was noted here.

Tarbiz 84.1-2

Shlomo Naeh - שם משמר and שם שבת : A Further Study of the Temple ‘Seals’

Menahem Kahana - The Relations between Exegeses in the Mishnah and Halakhot in the Midrash

Shimon Fogel and Uri Ehrlich - On the History of the Ancient Version of the ‘Hashkivenu’ Blessing

Eran Viezel - Medieval Bible Commentators on the Question of the Composition of the Bible: Research and Methodological Aspects

Aviram Ravitsky - Saʿadya Gaʾon and Yaʿqūb al-Qirqisānī on the Logical Structure of the Rational and Traditional Laws: Logic and Kalām in the Karaite-Rabbanite Controversy

Avishai Bar-Asher - Kabbalah and Minhag: Geonic Responsa and the Kabbalist Polemic on Minhagim in the Zohar and Related Texts

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Review of Milgram, From Mesopotamia to the Mishnah

THE BIBLICAL REVIEW BLOG: “From Mesopotamia to the Mishnah” by Jonathan S. Milgram (William Brown).
Jonathan S. Milgram. From Mesopotamia to the Mishnah: Tannaitic Inheritance Law in its Legal and Social Contexts. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 164. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2016, 201 pp.
As a result of Milgram’s study, we more clearly observe the relationship between Roman, Greek, and ancient Near Eastern laws and tannnaitic traditions. He does this by revealing various tannaitic traditions throughout his work, traditions previously unobserved. In short, he allows us to better understand tannaitic law within its ancient, legal context. Hopefully future scholars will further elucidate the complex web of laws from Jewish traditions and other ancient legal tradition and how they possibly influence each other. For the scholar who does this, Milgram’s monograph is an importance reference.
I noted the book when it came out this summer. More on Jonathan Milgram is here.

British Library Greek Manuscripts online

AWOL: Launched Today: British Library Greek Manuscripts. Ancient Judaism is represented (at least) by this 16th-century manuscript of the Letter of Aristeas. The website was launched on Monday 19 September.

Lied on the media and the Gospel of Jesus' Wife

LIV INGEBORG LIED: The Gospel of Jesus's Wife saga and the role of the media. Professor Lied has posted her paper for the recent Fragments of an Unbelievable Past Conference, "Media Dynamics and Academic Knowledge Production: Tracing the Role of the Media in the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife Saga," at Background on the conference is here and links.

David's commander in the Qeiyafa inscription?

EPIGRAPHY AND THE BIBLE? ’Eshbaʿal Son of Bdʿa Whose Name Found at Qeiyafa Identified as the Commander of the First Platoon of the Heroes of David (Prof. Moshe Garsiel, posted in the blog of Dr. Lea Mazor, About Bible, Teaching and Education). An interesting argument that involves considerable speculative reconstruction. It would be extraordinarily lucky if we happened to find a tenth-century BCE Hebrew inscription that mentioned a minor biblical character, but I can't say it's impossible.

HT reader Yoel.

Past posts on Khirbet Qeiyafa and the inscription are here , here, here, and here.

Review of Stuckenbruck and Boccaccini (eds.), Enoch and the Synoptic Gospels

ATHEOLOGY BLOG: An Important New Book on the Background of the Biblical Gospels (Stewart James Felker).
An important new volume of essays, Enoch and the Synoptic Gospels: Reminiscences, Allusions, Intertextuality, is being released this week. (Table of contents and relevant links can be found at the end of this post.) This is the first volume to collect some of the papers given at the 2013 Enoch Seminar conference, and is to be followed next year by the volume The Early Enoch Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels.

The book was noted as forthcoming here. I was at the 2013 Enoch Seminar and posted on it here and here and links.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Repentance of thieves in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Smoothing the Path to a Sinner’s Repentance. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ ancient oral law makes it easier for thieves to regain spiritual balance with their victims—a reminder of the kinship of all Jews. Excerpt:
This week’s reading returned to the question of the barriers to repentance. This time, the problem had to do with how much effort should be required of a thief to locate the person from whom he had stolen. According to the mishna in Bava Kamma 103a, the burden on the thief is virtually unlimited: a robber must bring the money to his victim “after him to Medea.” Medea or Media was a region of northwestern Iran, thus quite distant from the Babylonian heartland where the Bavli was composed. The implication is that even a very long journey should not be a deterrent to repentance.

But in the Gemara, we find that the rabbis modified this law in the direction of greater leniency, or perhaps greater realism. The Sages “instituted a great ordinance stating that if the expense required to return a stolen item to the victim is greater than the principal,” then the thief does not have to track down the victim. Instead, he can make restitution to a court. The Talmud does not go on to say what the court does with the money—does it have an obligation to send it on to the victim, or does it use the money for communal purposes?
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Mazza reports on the "Unbelievable Past" conference

FACES AND VOICES BLOG: Fragments of an Unbelievable Past? Constructions of Provenance, Narratives of Forgery. A Report (Roberta Mazza). A detailed report. Background on the conference is here, here, and here.

Romans and the messianic son of God

READING ACTS: The Messianic Son of God – Romans 1:3. Phil Long has a new series running on Paul's Letter to the Romans. I'm not going to follow it closely, but when a post impinges on ancient Judaism, as here, I will note it. I have more on 4Q426 (the so-called Aramaic "Son of God" text) here.

Interview with Daniel Matt on the Zohar

AUDIO INTERVIEW: Zohar translation revives poetry and nuance of Jewish mystical text (KALW Radio, San Francisco).
Western literature’s most important books have been translated, not once, but many times. The book at the top of the charts is the Bible: more than 100 and that’s just in English.

Why so many? It’s hard to capture all the nuances of meaning and style from the original. Which is why a recently completed translation of the Zohar—the book at the bedrock of the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah—is so important. Scholars say its poetic interpretation captures the original 13th century prose. Berkeley scholar Daniel Matt spends almost two decades doing the translation and writing commentary that goes with it. That’s a long time, but the Zohar is a massive book. When complete, the new work will total 12 volumes, each hundreds of pages long. Matt is responsible for most of it.

Past posts on the Zohar, and Daniel Matt's translation of it, are here with many, many links.

Jordanian inscriptions

EPIGRAPHY: Ancient texts offer wealth of information for archaeologists, local epigrapher says (Saeb Rawashdeh, The Jordan Times).
AMMAN — Ancient texts and inscriptions are among archaeologists’ most valuable finds, offering direct insights into the remains where they are found, according to Omar Ghul, an associate professor at the Yarmouk University’s faculty of archaeology.

Epigraphy — the study of inscriptions found on various materials like stones, metal, papyri, clay, parchment or wood — analyses the links between the texts, their authors and their civilisations.

From Late Bronze Age cuneiform tablets to Moabite and Ammonite texts to late antique Nabatean (Nabataean), Greek, and occasionally Arabic inscriptions. Cool.

Past posts on Nabatean and the Nabateans (Nabataeans) are here, here, and here, with many links. See also the blog search engine and the archives. And there's more on the Balaam inscription from Tel Deir 'Alla here and links.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Scientific American on the Temple Mount floor tiles

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN: Archeologists Restore Flooring that Adorned the Second Temple of Jerusalem. The finding gives a glimpse of the majestic detail of this long-lost edifice central to Jewish and Christian history (Debbie Ponchner). I don't think there's anything new in this article, but it covers what we know in an organized and clear way. I found this paragraph on how they identified the date and provenance of the tiles particularly helpful.
Besides coming from sediments taken from the Temple Mount, these floor tiles all display three characteristics that suggest they were part of the Second Temple complex, says Gabriel Barkay, cofounder and director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project. “First of all, all the measurements of the flooring tiles are following the fractions of the Roman foot (about 29.6 cm) and follow precisely that widely-used dimension that was in fashion at that time. Second, we have parallels, exact parallels, to these floors—and even to the individual stones and the stone formations—in Herod’s palaces in Masada, Herodium, in Jericho and elsewhere. That is quite firm. Third, the material of the stone tiles was imported from Italy, Greece, Tunisia and Asia Minor. These are colorful marbles with colored veins and patches, and this material was not imported to this land neither before nor after Herod the Great. The dating is secure.”
Cross-file under Temple Mount Watch. Background here and links.

On procrastination and Gnosticism

PHILOSOPHY: Why Do Anything? A Meditation on Procrastination (Costica Bradatan). The New York Times has published an Opinion piece on ancient Gnostic theology and its modern philosophical heirs.
Gnostic thinking takes us to a privileged ontological realm: the state of perfection that precedes actualization. That which is yet to be born — be it the world, a person, a piece of furniture or a piece of writing like this one — may be nothing, but at this stage it is at its utmost. Its nothingness is fuller and richer than any ordinary existence. To fall into existence is to enter time, and with time comes decay, aging and death.
Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch. Some past posts on ancient Gnosticism and modern popular culture and philosopy are here, here, here, here, here and here and links.

"Women in Judaism"

AWOL: Open Access Journal: Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal. Many of the articles deal with ancient Judaism.

Virtual Temple tour

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH (VR EDITION): A virtual reality visit to the Second Temple. he Western Wall Heritage Foundation is offering a virtual-reality tour of the Temple Mount as it was two millennia ago, based on historical data (Yael Freidson, Jewish World). There's a brief video sample, but, unlike the tour, it is not immersive.

The "Widow's Mite"

COIN WEEK: NGC Ancient Coins: Redefining the Biblical Widow’s Mite (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation). Excerpt:
The point of this discussion is to demonstrate how broad the definition of the Biblical Widow’s Mite should be if one is willing to break from a tradition that in truth has no solid footing whatsoever.

We believe the strength of tradition assures that the issues of Alexander Jannaeus will remain the generally accepted candidate for the Widow’s Mite. However, NGC Ancients now willingly extends that designation to any small Hasmonean (Maccabean) bronze coin issued from 135 to 37 BCE, as we consider any of them to be legitimate candidates.

The same could be said for all Herodian and Roman procuratorial bronzes of small size that predate about 27 BCE. However, these coins are scarce (or rare) in comparison to the massive issues of the Hasmoneans, and they typically are collected with other goals in mind.
The phrase "widow's mite" comes from the KJV translation of the story in the Synoptic Gospels of the widow who put two small coins (lepta) into the offering box at the Temple treasury. A past post noted another Coin Week article that dealt with this coin in less detail.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

BHD: Burke on the Christian Apocrypha

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Christian Apocrypha: The “Lost Gospels”? Apocryphal texts and early Christianity (Ellen White). This essay summarizes an article by Dr. Tony Burke in the current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, the full text of which is behind the subscription wall. I noted that article here. Excerpt:
“Today scholars of the Christian apocrypha are challenging this view of the loss and rediscovery of apocryphal texts,” explains Burke. “It has become increasingly clear that the Christian apocrypha were composed and transmitted throughout Christian history, not just in antiquity.”
Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

Hurtado on the Bauckham Festscrift

LARRY HURTADO: A Tribute to Bauckham: New Volume. Professor Hurtado summarizes part of his own contribution to the volume. Then in another post he takes issue with the arguments in Philip Alexander's contribution: Alexander’s Ineffective Critique.

Background on the Festscrift is here and links.

Texan Mandean

JAMES MCGRATH: A Mandaean Song from San Antonio. Cross-file under Mandaean (Mandean) Watch and Modern Aramaic Watch. I would like to know about that restaurant too.

As James notes, PaleoJudaica has a recent thematically (i.e. Aramaic music) related post here.

Animal bones and the Jerusalem Temple

THE ASOR BLOG: Animal Economy in a Temple City and Its Countryside: Iron Age Jerusalem as a Case Study (Lidar Sapir-Hen, Yuval Gadot, and Israel Finkelstein).
Iron Age Jerusalem is the subject of perennial interest, but archaeological understanding of how the city functioned economically has grown more slowly. Our paper is an effort to understand aspects of life in Jerusalem and its hinterland in the first millennium BCE. In it we compared the animal economies of two sites that are part of one system: elite building at the capital city of Jerusalem, and an administrative center located several kilometers to its west. The results enabled us to gain insights into rural-urban relationships and socio-political mechanisms in the Iron Age Levant. These include understanding regional economic connections, the centralized temple economy and the class system.

This in particular caught my eye:
The reported assemblages differ in the prominence of various livestock animals and in patterns of their exploitation. We found that while the Western Wall Plaza’s inhabitants focused on meat consumption and did not engage in actual herding, the inhabitants of Tel Moza focused on agriculture and producing caprines’ secondary products, probably supplying sheep and cattle to Jerusalem.


Finally, our study reveals a class system within Jerusalem. When comparing our results to previous results from several locations, our study also demonstrates socio-economic stratification. People living in locations close to the Temple Mount show a higher economic standing of their inhabitants compared to those in a neighborhood on the southeastern slope of the “City of David” ridge. The higher-status neighborhoods seem to have received meat through a redistribution mechanism, possibly also through the sacrificial refuse from the Temple. While those residing next to the Temple enjoyed prime meat-cuts and were not engaged in actual herding or agriculture, lower-status groups showed some level of agriculture and working of secondary products. The “City of David” ridge is the only area within the city suitable for conducting small-scale agriculture. That Temple and palace’ elite of Jerusalem had specialized herders of caprines is well attested in other studies, showing herding of “royal” herds in the Judean Desert.
This looks like it adds up to indirect, but pretty clear, archaeological evidence for the existence of the First Temple on the Temple Mount in the late Iron Age II. This sort of statistical analysis of biological material remains has a lot to contribute to our understanding of antiquity. Cross-file under Temple Mount Watch.

Azar on the reception history of "the Jews" in John's Gospel

Stereotyping Exegesis: The Gospel of John and “the Jews” in Ancient and Modern Commentary

Undoubtedly, there is much in the Christian past that warrants recognition and repudiation in the service of rectifying Jewish-Christian relations. The history of interpretation of John assuredly will not reveal many irenic readings. But to assume that the entire reception history—especially the early history that was so formative for Christianity—uniformly bears the same hostility of more recent periods oversteps the evidence (whether or not such hostility fairly characterizes the vast majority of the tradition). When closely examined, there is much in the early reception of John’s gospel that reveals significant problems in the way that that reception is so often portrayed and dismissed.

See Also: Exegeting the Jews: The Early Reception of the Johannine Jews (Brill, 2016).

By Michael G. Azar
Theology/Religious Studies
University of Scranton
September 2016