Saturday, October 01, 2016

Archaeology stories for Rosh HaShanah

ARCHAEOLOGY: The best of Israel archaeology in 5776. Finds include lost cities rediscovered, fabulous jewels and ancient technologies that were a lot more advanced than expected (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).

Relevant PaleoJudaica posts include the following: on the possible discovery of the Acra/Akra, here and links; on the Hezekiah bulla (seal impression), here and links; on Ben Carson and the pyramids, here; on the Gaza byzantine church, here and links; on the Arad letters and new technology, here and links; on the Jerusalem garbage dump, here; on the possible prehistoric female shaman found in the Galilee, here; on that "first" Philistine cemetery, here and links; on the chariot-cooling system at Carthage, here; on the priestly bathtub (etc.) on Mount Zion, here; on the Crusader hand grenade, here; on the menorah stone found in a Byzantine church in Abila, Jordan, here; and on the ancient rebel caves in the Galilee, here.

Aramaic DSS

BIBLE ODYSSEY: Aramaic Literature in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Andrew B. Perrin). HT AJR.

Hebrew University postdoc

H-JUDAIC: JOB: Hebrew University of Jerusalem Mandel Postdoctoral Fellowships in Humanities and Jewish Studies.

The Karaites and Rosh HaShanah

KARAITE WATCH: The Jews You’ve Never Heard Of. In the Bay Area, Karaite Jews struggle to build a future in America (Shira Telushkin, Tablet Magazine).
On Oct. 3, as most synagogues around the world celebrate Rosh Hashanah, about 130 people will gather at a synagogue in Daly City, California, to celebrate Yom T’ruah, the biblical “Day of Shouting.” They will be just a few of the tens of thousands celebrating in congregations across Israel and Europe. The congregation will chant from a Torah scroll, recite their prayers in Hebrew, coddle bored children, and some might even—succumbing a bit to acculturation—dip apple slices in honey. But they will not blow the shofar, wish for each other to be inscribed in the Book of Life, or depart with a shanah tovah. In fact, they will not be celebrating the New Year at all. Rather, the Karaite Jews of America will be celebrating the first day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, a day of sacred assembly called for in Leviticus 23:24.

“The idea of the seventh month as Rosh Hashanah is a borrowed Babylonian concept,” Jonathan Haber explained to me over the phone one afternoon, while he took a break from a hiking trip in northern Israel. Haber, who grew up in a Reform Jewish home in Miami Beach, began practicing seriously as a Karaite while an undergraduate at the University of Florida. He recently moved to Israel, and in early August joined the Israel Defense Forces, complete with a letter from the Karaite Chief Rabbi that ensures he can celebrate the holidays by the Karaite calendar. “The four New Years in the Talmud are adopted from the Babylonian custom of having multiple new years, and that comes from the pagan idea of multiple gods. None of that is in the Tanakh,” he said, referring to the Hebrew Bible.

He’s right, of course. Rosh Hashanah as the start of a new year is a rabbinic interpretation of the verse. And since at least the eighth century CE, Karaite Jews across the world have kept to an interpretation of Judaism in which the Bible is taken as the ultimate authority on religious practice. Long centered in Egypt, Turkey, and Crimea, Karaites will consider the insights of the Oral Law, but they don’t accept their rulings as binding, and outright reject rabbinic traditions that contradict the plain meaning of scriptural verses. As Travis Wheeler, a convert to Karaism from Georgia who is the only formally trained Karaite shochet in the United States put it to me, “Any Karaite—any good Karaite—will read the Talmud” but the words of the Torah always take precedence—and that creed leads to a form of Judaism that is at once recognizable yet strange.

Karaite Jews observe kashrut, Shabbat, and the Jewish holidays (except Hanukkah), and they hold daily prayer services. But they will eat meat and milk together (provided the meat was not the child of the animal that produced the milk, in accordance with Exodus 23:19) and avoid shwarma, that classic Israeli street food, because the animal fat that flavors the meat from on top constitutes biblically forbidden chelev , a prohibition rabbinic law long ago overturned. Karaite tradition forbids women to enter the synagogue during their periods, yet allows women to divorce their husbands by right of the court, avoiding the problem of agunot. Karaites follow patrilineal descent. The Karaite siddur is mostly Psalms and prayers woven together from biblical verses. They remove their shoes in synagogue and pray prostrate on the ground. (To many, this looks like Muslim worship, but the practice is guided by Exodus 3:5, in which God tells Moses from within the burning bush to remove his shoes “because the place on which you stand is holy ground,” and by biblical depictions of Daniel and others praying on their knees.) They don’t require a minyan for communal prayer and they don’t lay tefillin, understanding the biblical commandment to bind the words onto one’s body to be intended symbolically. In some ways, the Karaites still live in the mind-set of the Talmud, where each scholar can consider and establish law according to his own understanding of the Bible. A Karaite motto, quoted in much of their literature, is: “Search scripture well, and don’t rely on my opinion.” This doesn’t make it a total free-for-all—like rabbinic Jews, Karaites derive law from scripture according to their own traditions, scholars, and standards of legal interpretation. They just don’t think man’s word can ever override the written word of God.

A long, informative article. Past PaleoJudaica posts on the Karaites are here and links.

Video of presentation of the National Humanities Medal to Elaine Pagels

GNOSTICISM WATCH: Princeton University's Elaine Pagels to be honored at the White House (Ilene Dube, Newsworks). The article posts a video of the ceremony, which took place on 22 September. The section with President Obama's presentation of the medal to Professor Pagels begins at about 26:20. Congratulations to her once again for this well-deserved honor.

I noted the story earlier here.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Peters, Hebrew Lexical Semantics and Daily Life in Ancient Israel

Hebrew Lexical Semantics and Daily Life in Ancient Israel

What's Cooking in Biblical Hebrew?

Kurtis Peters, University of British Columbia, Vancouver
In Hebrew Lexical Semantics and Daily Life in Ancient Israel, Kurtis Peters hitches the world of Biblical Studies to that of modern linguistic research. Often the insights of linguistics do not appear in the study of Biblical Hebrew, and if they do, the theory remains esoteric.

Peters finds a way to maintain linguistic integrity and yet simplify cognitive linguistic methods to provide non-specialists an access point. By employing a cognitive approach one can coordinate the world of the biblical text with the world of its surroundings. The language of cooking affords such a possibility – Peters evaluates not only the words or lexemes related to cooking in the Hebrew Bible, but also the world of cooking as excavated by archaeology.

More on the Aphrodite statues from Petra

NABATEAN (NABATAEAN) WATCH: Goddess Alert: Marble Statues of Aphrodite Unearthed at Petra (Mindy Weisberger, Live Science).
Two marble statues representing Aphrodite/Venus, the Greco-Roman goddess of love, were found recently at Petra, an ancient desert city in Jordan.

The statues, which date to the second century A.D., are nearly intact and are remarkably well preserved, retaining traces of the paint applied to them centuries ago. They were discovered by archaeologists and graduate students from the U.S. working in collaboration with the Department of Antiquities of Jordan.

Carved in a distinctly Roman style, the statues hint at ways in which Rome influenced local culture in Petra, following its annexation of Nabataea — the Arabic kingdom that included Petra — in A.D. 106.

I noted an announcement of the discovery of the statues here, but this article has additional information and a nice photo of both statues. The report of a statue of cupid associated with the Aphrodite statue is also clarified:
One of the two sculptures, complete from the waist down, was still attached to its base, upon which a knee-high Cupid also stood, gazing up at the goddess.
You can see him in the photo on the right side of the statue on the right.

HT Explorator 19.22.

St. Jerome's feast day

JIM WEST REMINDS US: It’s The Feast Day of St Jerome! Without endorsing all of Jim's evaluation, I am happy to note the day because of St. Jerome's unusual (for Christians in the Patristic period) interest in Hebrew and related matters. It looks as though the last times I noted his feast day were in 2005 and 2006. Other relevant posts on St. Jerome are here, here and here.

The Cairo Geniza etc.

GENIZA WATCH: The hidden treasures of the Middle East’s genizot (RUTH BREINDEL, The Jewish Voice). A nice, brief overview of the Cairo Geniza, its importance, and related matters.

There are many, many past PaleoJudaica posts on the Cairo Geniza. Start with this unusual post and follow the links.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ancient rebel caves in the Galilee

ARCHAEOLOGY: Caves in Which Jewish Rebels Hid From Romans 2,000 Years Ago Found in Galilee. As the First Jewish War raged in ancient Palestine, villagers would hide in impressively inaccessible cliffside caves as the Roman armies marched through (Philippe Bohstrom, Haaretz).
While surveying natural limestone caves in the Galilee, scientists have discovered hundreds of limestone caves in which Jews hid when Roman troops came marching through 2,000 years ago, during the Great Jewish Revolt (66-70 CE).

Extensive embellishment such as baths and candle niches carved into the rock show that the caves had been prepared for extensive habitation.

Water cisterns carved into the rock, as well as pitchers, pottery shards, coins, and other artifacts dating to the 1st century C.E. were found in many of the cliff shelters, say Dr. Yinon Shivtiel from the Safed Academic College and Vladimir Boslove of the Israeli Cave Research Center. The work was funded by the Safed Academic College Research Foundation.

The Jewish historian Josephus wrote extensively about the Roman-Jewish wars. Some historians have wondered whether he didn't embellish his role in the Jewish uprising, glorifying his own actions.  But the discoveries of the caves in the Galilee, which were made over a period of years, lend credence to his accounts.

It would be very cool if these caves, like the Bar Kokhba-era caves in the Judean Desert, produced some written documents left by the rebels. But the climate of the Galilee is not as dry as the climate in the south, so, sadly, any parchments or papyri left in the caves would probably not have survived until now.

A post from several years ago noting an article on the mikvehs (ritual baths) found in the caves is here. And from long ago, another past post on the Galilean caves used by the Jewish rebels is here. Some past posts on Josephus and his convoluted career are here and links. That link also has more on the algorithm that seems to have saved him during the incident in the Jotapata cave.

Desecration by toilet at Lachish

ARCHAEOLOGY: The wrong kind of throne: Toilet discovered at 2,800-year-old shrine reveals Biblical tale of desecration of religious sites by King Hezekiah (Richard Gray, Daily Mail).
The Lachish city gate, as it is known, consists of six chambers which contain signs of city life at the time.

In one of the chambers, however, is a shrine that once had walls covered with white plaster and two altars decorated with raised corners - known as horns.

These, however, appear to have had their tops deliberately cut off, a sign that there had been an attempt to end the spread of religious cults and centralise worship in Jerusalem.

But perhaps the greatest sign that the shrine had been the site of one of King Hezekiah's crackdowns was the installation of the toilet within the inner sanctum of the shrine.

This stone with a hole cut through the centre would have been the ultimate desecration of the Holy site.
This is a remarkable discovery and, assuming the full publication supports all the physical evidence reported in the story, the interpretation applied to it seems entirely plausible. The shrine may have been dedicated to a pagan god such as Baal, but it may also have been one to YHWH, which the priests of the the Temple in Jerusalem would have regarded as illegitimate because it wasn't theirs. At least that's how the Deuteronomistic Historian tells it.

This story is receiving a great deal of coverage in the media. Todd Bolen collects some of the articles and some other information at the Bible Places Blog. The Mail article presents it well and includes lots of nice photos. The shrine area also produced some important artifacts, including inscribed seal impressions.

Reminder: Studies in Late Antiquity

H-JUDAIC: New Journal: Studies in Late Antiquity.
I’m delighted to announce that UC Press is launching a new journal, Studies in Late Antiquity. We are particularly interested in publishing interdisciplinary, methodologically innovative, or comparative work engaging the Mediterranean with other parts of the late ancient world. All contributions will be double-blind peer-reviewed, and our format will be entirely online—which will allow us to include a wide range of media, from high density photography to GIS to video. We plan a formal launch at this year’s SBL meeting in San Antonio, and are now commissioning articles to fill the quarterly issues for 2017 and 2018.
Follow the link for more information. I noted this new journal six months ago here, but this announcement has some new information so it seems like a good time for a reminder.

Satlow on charity

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: AJR Charity Forum: a Response (Michael Satlow). The previous essays in the series were noted here and here.

Holy trash?

THE CAIRO GENIZA MEETS ART: A Holy Hoard: Acumulación sagrada (Sherry Mazzocchi, Manhattan Times).
Solomon Schechter unearthed the most famous genizah in modern times. In 1896, the Cambridge University Talmudic scholar met friends who had purchased fascinating ancient documents from a dealer in Egypt. They were from a genizah in which Torah scrolls, books, contracts, lists, magical incantations and pretty much anything written in Hebrew letters since the 11th century had been gathered over years. By the end of World War I, Schechter hauled 193,000 documents from Cairo’s Ben Ezra synagogue to Cambridge and began a study that spanned nearly a thousand years of Jewish history.

In the “Holy Trash: My Genizah” exhibit, artist Rachel Libeskind transforms the sacred into art.

Libeskind took outdated and worn books from the archives of the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS). She created concrete casts from sacred 400-year-old Jewish texts, worn Bar Mitzvah prep books and Braille Torahs. The resulting interactive exhibit echoes a famous photograph of Schechter sitting in the midst of a jumbled mass of manuscripts.
And to make it even better, the exhibition was inspired by a revelatory dream.

This is a first, but there are many past PaleoJudaica posts on the Cairo Geniza which do not involve artistic inspiration. See, recently, here, here, here, here, here, and follow the many links

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Gmirkin, Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible

RELIGION NEWS SERVICES: New book claims the Old Testament drew extensively on Plato’s writings and other texts from the Great Library of Alexandria in 270 BC.
NEW YORK–LONDON — Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible, from academic publisher Routledge Press, proposes a provocative new theory regarding when, where and why the Old Testament was written. According to the author, Russell Gmirkin, the idea for the earliest Bible came out of Plato’s Laws, which proposed a new form of government with divinely inspired laws and a carefully approved ethical national literature. Plato said that if the ruling class of priests and educators could persuade the populace that their new laws and literature were both ancient and inspired, the new nation could last forever. Gmirkin’s book proposes that the Jewish nation and its Bible were the first and only implementation of Plato’s Laws in antiquity.

This sounds pretty wild to me, but I haven't read the book, so I won't comment further. My own view about Plato, though, is that it is likely that his ideas that led to his Theory of Forms were at least indirectly influenced by ancient Near Eastern ideas about the earthly temple of the god (pick your god) being a microcosmic representation of the macrocosmic temple of the universe. But that is just my impression. I'm not prepared to argue it as a theory.

I noted the book as forthcoming here. A review (in the Journal of Hebrew Studies) of Russell Gmirkin's earlier book on a similar theme is here.

The image and likeness of Caesar

NUMISMATICS: CoinWeek Ancient Coin Series: Coins of Julius Caesar (Mike Markowitz). The first coin pictured makes me think of Jesus' reference to the "likeness and inscription" of Caesar mentioned by Jesus in the story in Mark 12:13-17. But the occasion for the pictured coin was rather macabre and I doubt any of them were still circulating in Jesus' time. Still, it probably gives us some idea of what a denarius coin depicting a Caesar might have looked like. My recent post on The denarius quotes the New Testament story and links to a Coin Word article on the subject, but the latter does not have any photos of denarii bearing Caesar's likeness.

Honey had many uses in antiquity

FOOD/BURIAL CUSTOMS: Keeping the Honey in the Land of Milk and Honey. Just in time for Rosh Hashanah, Israel’s annual honey festival shines a light on the variety of sweet products being produced—as well as the challenges facing the country’s beekeepers (Tablet Magazine).
Forty percent of the honey consumed in Israel every year is consumed during the High Holidays, when it is customary to eat honey and give it as a gift. So, just in time for Rosh Hashanah, the Israeli Honey Board is kicking off its annual honey festival at apiaries across the country. The festival, spread across more than 10 locations, started Sept. 22 and will continue until Oct. 29, after Sukkot ends.

Sounds like a nice festival. I note the article because it briefly comments on an unusual ancient use of honey and a legend about Herod the Great:
The belief that honey has healing properties isn’t new. Avidor told me that in ancient times, the Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Assyrians, and Arabs used honey for embalming their dead. “After King Herod ordered his wife, Marianne, to be executed,” [Hertzel] Avidor [CEO of the Israeli Honey Board] said, “he kept her body in honey for seven years—supposedly because he loved her so much.”
This creepy story, which does not actually name Marianne, is related in the Talmud in b. Baba Bathra 3b. Some other ancient references to embalming in honey (which I have not checked myself) are collected here.

Davis questions the authenticity of some DSS fragments

KIPP DAVIS: Gleanings from the Cave of Wonders? Patterns of Correspondence in the Post-2002 Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments (
This is a preliminary work of comparison between recently published fragments from two private manuscript collections: The Schøyen Collection and the Museum of the Bible. In this survey I analyze physical and scribal features according to eight criteria, and suggest from these findings a relatively well established pattern of correspondence that should lead us to raise serious questions as to both the provenance of these manuscripts, and ultimately their authenticity.
Dr. Davis has posted his paper from the recent Fragments of an Unbelievable Past Conference at Thanks to Sarah Whittle and Roberta Mazza (see second update) for drawing it to my attention.

Background on the conference is here and here and links.

British Library conference on Digitised Hebrew Manuscripts

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Digitised Hebrew Manuscripts: British Library and Beyond.
Join us in this conference dedicated to the British Library’s digitised collection of Hebrew manuscripts, and find out more about the collection, how to use it, and how we can help. Conference sessions will include presentations on how to access the Library’s digital collections and what opportunities it has to offer to graduate students and academics. The conference will also cover external projects working with digitised Hebrew manuscripts at the National Library of Israel, as well as UK university libraries in Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester.

It takes place on 21 November 2016. Follow the link for further particulars and registration information. I noted the British Library's Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project last year here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

An ancient triclinium in Jerusalem?

ARCHAEOLOGY: Researchers: Jerusalem Structure Was Dining Room of Ancient City Council. Archaeologist Alexander Onn compares the Second Temple era hall with Israel's parliamentary cafeteria, a modern meeting place of the ruling elite (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
About five years ago, near the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem, archaeologist Alexander Onn discovered remnants of an unusual building from the Second Temple period that has been dated to the end of the 1st century B.C.E.

The structure consists of two large rooms connected by a water system that featured a decorative fountain.

Archeologists have been in agreement that this was a large, opulent building from the Herodian period, perhaps the most opulent beyond the confines of the Temple Mount, but what it was used for had not been clear. The accepted assumption up until recently was that it was a large public fountain of the kind familiar from public squares in Roman cities at the time.

Now, however, Prof. Joseph Patrich of Hebrew University and Dr. Shlomit Wexler-Bedolah of the Israel Antiquities Authority say this was the triclinium, the site of the dining halls and reception areas of the city council of Jerusalem at the time. In some respects, that would make it like today’s Knesset cafeteria, the ultimate meeting place of the ruling elite.

Earlier this year there was mention of the discovery of a triclinium in France, the use of which was compared to Roman influences in Judea. And the "scriptorium" at Qumran has also been argued, controversially, to be a triclinium.

Jewish and gentile courts in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Jew vs. Non-Jew vs. Jew. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic sages attempt to deal with the risks inherent in communal loyalty taking precedence over common law and principled justice.
One of the most delicate and unsettling issues for me, in writing about my Daf Yomi reading, is the Talmud’s treatment of the relationship between gentiles and Jews. As a Jew in 21st-century America, I have a basic sense that religion should be irrelevant to questions of law and justice. If a Jew and a non-Jew are parties to a lawsuit, I take it for granted that they will go before a government court and receive impartial justice. Any suggestion that Jews owe loyalty to each other and their own laws, rather than to common laws and universal standards of justice, distresses me. And if I am honest, one of the reasons it distresses me is that I worry what non-Jews will make of it. Anti-Semites past and present love to charge that Jews are loyal to each other but hostile to outsiders—which is one reason why modern Jews have been such passionate universalists.

But universalism was not a reality for Jews living in the Roman and Persian Empires in the first centuries CE. As we have seen in various ways in the Talmud, non-Jews were assumed to be hostile; Rome, in particular, was seen as Edom, an ancient enemy of the Jews, the destroyer of the Temple and persecutor of Judaism. The safest course for Jews was to have as little as possible to do with gentiles. Back in Tractate Eruvin, for instance, the rabbis warned that a Jew should never live among non-Jews. A similar idea came up in this week’s reading, in Bava Kamma 114a, where Rav Ashi says: “In the case of a Jewish man who sells a gentile a plot of land that is on the border of the property of his fellow Jew, we excommunicate him.” Why such a harsh punishment? “Because we say to him: You have placed a lion on my border.” A non-Jewish neighbor would, the Talmud assumes, cause trouble for a Jew—and the non-Jew would have the power of the government and its laws on his side.

The ancient world did not live by modern rules — see, e.g., here and here and links. People conducted themselves accordingly.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

DSS photo gallery

JUST BECAUSE: Gallery of Dead Sea Scrolls: A Glimpse of the Past (Live Science).

Crackdown on Chinese Jews in Kaifeng reported

THIS DOESN'T SOUND GOOD: Chinese authorities reportedly crack down on Jewish revival in Kaifeng.
(JTA) — Chinese authorities reportedly have cracked down on a Jewish revival in the city of Kaifeng.

The government has shut down Jewish organizations, prohibited residents identifying as Jewish from gathering for Jewish holidays and removed public identification of Jewish historical places on the city in central China, The New York Times reported over the weekend.

About 1,000 Kaifeng residents claim Jewish ancestry in a city population of 4.5 million, and about 100 to 200 have been active in Jewish religious and cultural activities, the Times reported.

Judaism is not one of China’s five state-licensed religions, which are Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism and Taoism.

So license it then. It sounds as though the Chinese Government would do well to review its policies and lighten up a bit. The world is watching.

The Jewish community in Kaifeng goes back to at least around 900 CE and a Jewish presence in China is attested still earlier. Background here and here and links. The New York Times article by Chris Buckley, mentioned above is here: Jewish and Chinese: Explaining a Shared Identity.

I wish that there were more good news in the stories I pass on about surviving ancient religious communities like the Kaifeng Jews and the Yazidis.


YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: rimmon “pomegranate.”
The pomegranate is one of several components of the Sephardic seder for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year holiday. The symbolic reason for eating it is “so that we become filled with mitzvot (good deeds, religious observations), as the pomegranate is filled with seeds.” Interestingly, the English word also means “apple/fruit full of grains (seeds),” from French-Latin pomum granatum. Compare to Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruits.
And there's more on the possible etymologies of the word.

Monday, September 26, 2016


AWOL: Open Access Journal: Textus: Annual of the Hebrew University Bible Project. I already noted this journal a few years ago here, but I haven't been keeping up with subsequent volumes. Recently I did note one article on the Ein Gedi Leviticus scroll here, but the current volume (26, 2016) includes more articles, all online for free:
The Development of the Text of the Torah in Two Major Text Blocks
E. Tov

How Could a Torah Scroll Have Included the Word זעטוטי?
G.A. Rendsburg

Reconstructing the Old Hebrew Text of the Book of Joshua: An Analysis of Joshua 10
K.D. Troyer

4QXIIg (4Q82) as an Editorial Text
A. Lange

Hebrew Bible job at Saint Louis University

The Department of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University is inviting applicants for a tenure-track position as Assistant Professor in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. As the chair of the search committee, I am contacting you in order both to solicit nominations for particularly promising students or recent graduates and to ask that you encourage such candidates to apply for this position.

Our department is committed to world-class research, as well as innovative and transformative teaching. Faculty in our department work with undergraduate, masters and doctoral students, benefit from extensive library holdings in the area of biblical studies and theology, receive the support of graduate research assistants ranging from 5-20 hours a week, and enjoy a 2-2 teaching load with classes capped at 25 students. We are looking, therefore, for candidates who will not only be effective teachers in the classroom, but also show a great deal of promise in their research. I have included (below) the job advertisement which you will also find on the AAR-SBL website.

The Department of Theological Studies at SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY invites applications for a full-time, tenure-track position in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at the rank of assistant professor. A doctorate is required by the time the appointment begins on August 15, 2017.

Area of specialization is open. However, preference will be given to applicants who diversify existing expertise and pedagogical approaches within the department and who work in an interdisciplinary manner. The successful candidate will have strong research competencies and the ability to teach a range of subjects at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The standard teaching assignment in the department is 2/2 and faculty regularly receive the support of graduate research assistants. Additional duties include advising and mentoring students and participating in faculty governance at the department, college and university level.

Regardless of his or her own faith tradition, the successful candidate will demonstrate a strong commitment to the university’s Catholic and Jesuit mission, which affirms the importance of diversity and fosters an inclusive work environment.

All applications are made online at and include a (1) cover letter, (2) curriculum vitae, (3) statement of research agenda, (4) one sample of scholarly work no longer than 30 pages, (5) a teaching statement where we invite you also to describe your cultural competencies and experiences engaging a diverse student body, and (6) three letters of reference. Applications are due November 4. Questions about this position should be directed to: Pauline Lee, Associate Professor of Chinese Religions, Department of Theological Studies, Saint Louis University, 3800 Lindell Blvd., Saint Louis, MO 63108. Contact email:
Saint Louis University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer and encourages applications from women and minorities.

Nabatean inscriptions

AWOL: Nabataean: Corpus of Nabataean Inscriptions.
The Corpus of Nabataean inscriptions on DASI has been accomplished thanks to the agreement with the CNRS laboratory UMR 8167 – Mondes Sémitiques, under the scientific supervision of L. Nehmé. Presently it includes all the tomb inscriptions from Hegra.
Nabatean was the written Aramaic dialect that was the official language of the ancient Arabic-speaking Nabateans in the region of modern Jordan extending into northwestern Saudi Arabia. It's script was the basis for the later Arabic alphabet. More on that here. For much more on the Nabateans (Nabataeans) see the immediately preceding post on The gardens of Petra and follow the links, or run "Nabatean (Nabataean) Watch" through the blog search engine.

The gardens of Petra

NABATEAN (NABATAEAN) WATCH: Monumental Forgotten Gardens of Petra Rediscovered After 2,000 Years. Cool fountains and a huge pool in mid-desert enabled by strikingly advanced stone-carved irrigation and water storage system (Philippe Bohstrom, Haaretz).
Recent excavations at Petra have revealed a startlingly advanced irrigation system and water storage system that enabled the desert city's people to survive – and to maintain a magnificent garden featuring fountains, ponds and a huge swimming pool. The engineering feats and other luxuries attest to the ancient Nabatean capital's former splendor and wealth some 2,000 years ago.

Petra is perhaps best known for its sandstone canyon that leads directly to Al Khazneh, The Treasury, seen in the climax to "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" where the hero archaeologists, played by Harrison Ford and Sean Connery, ride out of the canyon and into the Treasury in their quest for the Holy Grail.

However, 2,000 years ago, Petra was renowned for completely different reasons. It was one of the most famous water stops in the Middle East, where camel caravan routes linked distant cities. Now archaeologists are discovering the Nabataean capital, situated in the southwestern deserts of Jordan, once was adorned with an exquisite, artificially irrigated garden. It featured paths likely shaded by vines, trees and date palms, and grasses, which were cultivated next to a huge, 44-meter wide swimming pool.

The Nabataeans’ ability to tame nature, and conspicuous consumption of a precious resource, water, was pure propaganda. It was a means to display wealth and power, which they could do thanks to the ingenious hydraulic system they invented, which allowed the people not only to reserve enough water for their own needs, but to water the lavish garden with fountains and an open-air pool. It had previously been unthinkable that water, a scarce resource in the desert wastes, would have been used for anything but necessity.

The recent explorations and excavations of Petra in Jordan have been producing a lot of new information. See, recently, here for newly discovered monumental architecture and here for the recovery of two ancient mythological statues. See also here for some recent scholarly work on Petra and the Nabateans. And here's another post on the Petra gardening system from last year. Follow the links in those posts for much more on Petra. This work has been going on for some time. The 2007 Smithsonian article noted here already foreshadows some of the recent discoveries.

Jewish history recognized in India

EXHIBITION: History of a faith: Exploring the last 3,500 years of Jewish cultural heritage (Sunday Guardian Live).
A special exhibition exploring the cultural and social roots of the Jewish community is being hosted in New Delhi throughout this month. Previous editions of the show have been held in cities like New York, Paris and Copenhagen, writes Srija Naskar.

Indian government leaders and ambassadors from different nations met recently for the Asian premiere of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s historic exhibition, People, Book, Land: The 3500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People with The Holy Land at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. It was co-organised by UNESCO, the first such exhibit gaining UN approval, and sponsored by governments of Israel, US and Canada. This exhibit has been presented at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, the UN headquarters in New York, the Vatican, the US Congress, Israel’s Knesset, as well as in cities like Copenhagen and Chicago.

The exhibit traces 35 centuries of Jewish people’s relationship with their land, emphasising the universal and particularistic values that inspired the unique journey of the Jewish people throughout history and inspired Jews to retain an unbreakable bond and love for their ancestral homeland.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said, “ It is appropriate that the Asia launch of this exhibit is taking place in New Delhi as the Jewish people know that throughout history they have always been welcomed by the people of India.”

Rabbi Cooper is also interviewed about the exhibition by Indranil Banerjie in The Asian Age: Now in India: A glimpse of the 2,000-year [sic] history of the Jews.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Congress volume for 15th IOSCS meeting, 2013

XV Congress of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies: Munich, 2013
Wolfgang Kraus (Editor), Michael N. Van Der Meer (Editor), Martin Meiser (Editor)

ISBN 9781628371383
Status Available
Price: $99.95
Binding Paperback
Publication Date September 2016
Pages 780

Essays from experts in the field of Septuagint studies

The study of Septuagint offers essential insights in ancient Judaism and its efforts to formulate Jewish identity within a non-Jewish surrounding culture. This book includes the papers given at the XV Congress of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS), held in Munich, Germany, in 2013. The first part of this book deals with questions of textual criticism. The second part is dedicated to philology. The third part underlines the increasing importance of Torah in Jewish self-definition.

  • Essays dealing with questions of textual criticism, mostly concerning the historical books and wisdom literature and ancient editions and translations
  • Philological essays covering the historical background, studies on translation technique and lexical studies underline the necessity of both exploring general perspectives and working in detail
I noted the Congress just after it happened here.

Stökl Ben Ezra, Qumran


Die Texte vom Toten Meer und das antike Judentum

[Qumran. The Dead Sea Scrolls and Ancient Judaism.]
2016. XIII, 462 pages.
utb Jüdische Studien 4681/3

34,99 €
ISBN 978-3-8252-4681-5

Published in German.
Hardly an archaeological discovery has so revolutionized our understanding of ancient Judaism and the emergence of the Hebrew Bible as the Dead Sea Scrolls. In this textbook, Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra discusses clearly the most important theories on the Qumran scrolls in their archaeological context. Who were the owners of the scrolls, how did they live and think? What can we learn from the scrolls about the Hebrew Bible's text, editorial and canon history? Particular attention is paid to the meaning of the scrolls for the understanding of ancient Judaism beyond the circle of their once owners. Qumran scroll themes such as interpretation, Halacha, prayers, mysticism, and eschatology are systematically brought into discussion with other ancient Judaism sources, including Hellenistic and rabbinical texts, the New Testament, and archaeology.

Amal Clooney calls out the UN for the Yazidis

YAZIDI WATCH: Amal Clooney Says U.N. Has Failed Yazidi Women (Lucy Westcott, Newsweek via San Diego Jewish World).
Renowned human rights lawyer Amal Clooney criticized the United Nations for failing to act on behalf of the persecuted Yazidi minority group, thousands of whom remain enslaved by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).

Clooney spoke during a ceremony for Nadia Murad Basee Taha, a 23-year-old Yazidi woman who was kept as an ISIS sex slave for three months before she escaped. On Friday, Murad was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking for the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said ISIS is committing a genocide against several minority groups in Iraq and Syria, including Yazidis, Turkmen and Christians.

"Make no mistake: What Nadia has told us about is genocide,” Clooney said during a speech on Friday. “And genocide doesn't happen by accident. You have to plan it."

Clooney, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers in London who focuses on international and human rights law, will represent the Yazidis in an International Criminal Court case, in which she plans to seek accountability for the genocide, sexual enslavement and trafficking of Yazidi women and girls by ISIS. ISIS believe Yazidis are non-believers as they follow an ancient religion and are not Muslim.

Good for Ms. Clooney. She is doing a brave thing that is not without personal risk. Background on the Yazidis, their Gnosticism-themed religion, and their tragic fate in the hands of ISIS, is here with many links.

The Memoirs of Og

REMNANT OF GIANTS: Og the Giant’s Memoirs now on Some past PaleoJudaica posts on Og the giant are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Mahnaz (ed.), Zoroastrianism

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Zoroastrianism: Religious texts, theology, history and culture. Notice of a new book: Moazami, Mahnaz (ed.). 2016. Zoroastrianism: A collection of articles from the Encyclopaedia Iranica (Encyclopaedia Iranica Extracts – EIE), 2 vols. New York: Encyclopaedia Iranica Foundation.