Saturday, January 07, 2017

Roman Jewish catacombs under renovation

ROMAN CATACOMBS WATCH: In Rome, Restoring a Vast Repository of the Jewish Past. After years of delay, the ancient Jewish catacombs under Rome’s Villa Torlonia are set for restoration (John Hooper, Wall Street Journal).
This week, a central-government budget went into effect which, after more than 10 years of delay, allots €1.4 million (about $1.5 million) to restoring Villa Torlonia’s Jewish catacombs. If things work out, within a few years—maybe even next year—the public will be able to see an “area of extraordinary historic importance,” as Claudio Procaccia, director of the Department of Jewish Culture of the Jewish community of Rome, calls the site.

Paintings of stars, planets, peacocks and pomegranates decorate the walls and ceilings, along with a dolphin arching over a trident. One of the grander niches has small columns at each corner and a frescoed cross vault with a depiction of a menorah. There are images of sacred Jewish symbols, including an ark with the scrolls of the Torah, and several inscriptions referring to synagogues in the city.

But as Monica Zelinotti, the architect charged with managing the restoration, says, not every visitor to Rome will be eager to explore these catacombs. Gouged out of brownish-gray rock, they are eerie places: damp, claustrophobic and, of course, scattered with human remains. “The humidity can be as high as 100%,” says Ms. Zelinotti. The ceilings of the passageways are low. “In places, the space between the niches is no more than the width of your shoulders,” she adds.
Background on this renovation project, which has been planned since 2004, is here and links. This is only one of the Jewish catacombs surviving in Rome, but it is somewhat infamous because Mussolini lived at the Villa Torlonia. For background on Rome's other Jewish catacombs, see here and links.

Brady on Targum

NEWS YOU CAN USE: What is Targum? (Christian Brady, Targuman Blog).
It occurred to me this morning that I have never offered a definition or description of Targum and the Targumim on this site. Here is the entry I wrote for the Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible.
I noted Professor Brady's book on Targum Ruth here with background links.

EABS/ISBL 2017: CFP: Medicine in Bible and Talmud

H-JUDAIC: CFP- "MEDICAL KNOWLEDGE in BIBLE and TALMUD" - EABS/ISBL joint meeting, BERLIN, 7-11 August 2017.
Papers are invited on the comparative theme “Literary and discursive framing and concepts of (medical) knowledge in (Late) Antiquity”, from biblical and apocryphal texts, into later Jewish, Rabbinic-Talmudic traditions and beyond. The organizers explicitly welcome papers by scholars working on these questions as in neighboring or adjacent traditions (ancient Babylonia or Egypt; Graeco-Roman culture(s); Iranian traditions, early Christianity; Syriac traditions; early Islam etc.). Recent studies into ancient scientific traditions have emphasized the craft and artifice of those texts. On the one hand, these works can be characterized by a rather astonishing degree of literary expertise, discursive versatility and rhetorical sophistication. Ancient scientific authors were well versed not only in their very field of expertise but deployed compositional techniques from their respective cultural milieu. On the other hand, one notices also the complex framing of scientific knowledge in texts whose primary focus was religious, poetic, historiographic, or literary. Based on this, we welcome presentations on the representation and embedding of medical (and other) knowledge in particular texts and contexts. Papers may address the special design of such knowledge discourses. How does the use of rhetoric strategies, literary structures, or genres in `scientific texts’ affect the ideas conveyed? Could a specific hermeneutic (Listenwissenschaft/ encyclopaedism/ linguocentrism) not only serve as a ‘container’ but also as a method for knowledge acquisition? One might ask further: who constructs this discourse for whom, and with which (implicit/explicit) intention? How can the adoption of certain textual strategies and compositional techniques be seen as a vital venue for (structural/discursive) knowledge transfer, rather than the actual content of the passage?
The deadline for paper proposals in 1 February 2017.

More on the Jerusalem Bible quiz

ROMANTIC COMPETITION: Our marriage got the Bible test. There was something special about two of the competitors in this year's International Bible Competition for Adults (Lucy Cohen Blatter, Jewish Chronicle).
Last week, Yair Shahak was taking a taxi ride in Jerusalem and was recognised by the driver. Although he is not exactly a household name, Mr Shahak had just clinched the top prize in the International Bible Competition for Adults, which had been broadcast on Israeli TV earlier in the week.

But Mr Shahak had an even better claim to world Torah-knowledge domination than many viewers may have realised.

He had travelled to Jerusalem from New York with his wife, Yaelle Frohlich, who had also made the final.

And although the pair were technically competing against each other — among the 25 other finalists from around the world — “it didn’t feel like it”, said Ms Frohlich.

“We were rooting for each other, so I feel as though I share in his victory,” she said.

Background on the competition is here

Open Access Ancient Language Textbooks and Primers

AWOL: Open Access Ancient Language Textbooks and Primers. You would expect plenty of these for Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, but there is much more, including tools for learning Sanskrit, Armenian, Akkadian, Mayan, Sogdian, Avestan, Ethiopic, Sumerian, Demotic, etc.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Reed, "Retelling Biblical Retellings"

ANNETTE YOSHIKO REED: "Retelling Biblical Retellings: Epiphanius, the Pseudo-Clementines, and the Reception History of Jubilees" (

This is an offprint of Professor Reed's article in Tradition, Transmission, and Transformation from Second Temple Literature through Judaism and Christianity in Late Antiquity. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature. Edited by Menahem Kister, Hillel I. Newman, Michael Segal, and Ruth A. Clements. Leiden: Brill, 2015, pp. 304-21.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch and Reception History Watch.

Booming forgeries market in Syria

FORGERY WATCH: After Islamic State institutionalized looting in Syria, the market for fake antiquities is booming (Nabih Bulos, L.A. Times).
The Bible, its pages browned and frayed at their edges, seemed liable to crumble at the slightest touch.

One page had the faded traces of a drawing of the Virgin Mary, its spaces filled in with golden particles tinged green by oxidization, set opposite neat lines of Aramaic script. Elegant drawings of religious iconography adorned the margins, adding to the artifact’s elegance.

There was just one problem.

“It’s a fake,” said Yarub Abdullah, director of the National Museum in Damascus, closing the Bible suddenly with a nonchalant flip of his hand. He looked with distaste at his fingers, smudged by the pages he had just handled.

“Just smell the page; they got that color by dunking it in chocolate, something like that.”


And not all fakes were as obvious as Abdulkarim’s new office ornament, cautioned Azm.

Some are made from pieces of damaged mosaics, reassembled into designs that mimic more valuable pieces. “There are some very good fakers, especially in mosaics…. These workshops are mostly in the area around Idlib, some in Damascus. They’re so good they use ancient stones and reset them to get a higher value,” he said.

“Unless they make a stylistic error or a technical error, you won’t tell it’s a fake. If you look at the stone, test the residue, it will all be ancient.”

Some dealers will even bury the counterfeit artifact – another trick to fool potential buyers into thinking the item is authentic. They then either sell the rights to the site so buyers can send someone to dig it out, or have them pay a premium three times the artifact’s value for delivery across the border or beyond.

Remember, if an artifact has not been recovered in a scientific archaeological excavation, the burden of proof is on anyone who wishes to argue that it is genuine and ancient.

Recent related post here and one from 2015 here.

Top 5 ASOR Blog essays for 2016

THE ASOR BLOG: Top 5 ASOR Articles of 2016 (Kaitlynn Anderson).
2017 has officially begun! We’d like to thank all of our Friends of ASOR (and lurkers) who come back to the ASOR Blog to read article after article! Here’s a look back at the five most popular articles of 2016. A lot happened in 2016, here’s hoping 2017 is even better and full of interesting articles and discoveries.
It's a good list. And, yes, let's hope for even better stories in 2017.

OTP page at

OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA WATCH: New Old Testament Pseudepigrapha page from (Morgan Reed, Hugoye List).
Dear colleagues,

We are excited to introduce a new page at [found here] devoted to the study of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. A rich literary tradition, valued by Jews, Christians, and Muslims — though today often marginalized or unknown, even to scholars — surrounds the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Old Testament. We have created this page to highlight the numerous non-canonical texts related to the Old Testament that survive in Syriac, Arabic, and Garshuni.

Cross-file under Syriac Watch. And there's more on here.

New blog series on historical reliability of Luke-Acts

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Luke & Acts: Historical Reliability - 1 (Michael J. Caba).
This ongoing series of posts considers the historical reliability of the New Testament books of Luke and Acts by examining the relationship between the texts and other ancient sources. Primarily intended to assist those with a teaching ministry, it will cover both well documented and obscure correlations and will include periodic summaries and source references as relevant. Public domain photos, or those whose author has given permission for use, will also be provided when available.

To begin with, the first two verses of the third chapter of the Book of Luke contain references to eight individuals in prominent positions at the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist. The text itself is shown below.


Thursday, January 05, 2017

Kanarek and Lehman (eds.), Learning to Read Talmud

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Learning to Read Talmud: Bridging Scholarship and Pedagogy (Jane Kanarek and Marjorie Lehman). Excerpt:
... Our book, Learning to Read Talmud: What It Looks Like and How It Happens, presents a series of eight focused classroom studies written by professors of talmudic literature who were asked to respond to two questions:

1. What does it mean to read Talmud in your particular classroom?

2. What does this reading look like when it happens?


In this vein, these case studies reflect a range of North American contexts, from rabbinical seminaries to secular universities. Together, they reveal that learning to read Talmud is a complex and multivalent endeavor. It involves the mastery of base-line skills: learning the technical terminology and the dialogical style of argument for which the Talmud is well-known. But, learning to read the Talmud—whether in its original language or in translation—also involves competencies in several cognitive processes: breaking a sugya into much smaller units in order to rebuild sense; simultaneously considering multiple answers as possible; viewing problems as integral to the text; integrating the ahistorical with the historical; becoming conscious of and rethinking prior religious, cultural and historical assumptions in the face of new evidence; learning to think with a different mode of reasoning; building bridges between the ancient and the contemporary; and confronting unethical, even unfriendly texts.
This looks extraordinarily useful. Cross-file under New Book (Academic Studies Press).

Tel Shimron near Sepphoris to be excavated

ARCHAEOLOGY: Pitt lecturer on team to excavate site in Galilee (Toby Tabachnick, Jewish Chronicle).
[Ben] Gordon, the Perlow lecturer in Classical Judaism and the Ancient Near East in the department of Religious Studies within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, will be heading to Israel’s Galilee region this summer to commence a multiyear project excavating Tel Shimron, an archaeological site near the town of Sepphoris. Gordon will be part of the core research team, which includes Mario Martin of Tel Aviv University and Daniel Master of Wheaton University as co-directors of the project.

Gordon, a Virginia native, is no stranger to the historical treasures of Sepphoris, having done field work there as well as examined the findings of its excavation through affiliations with Hebrew University and Duke University.

Sepphoris, he explained, became a center of Jewish life after the destruction of the Second Temple. Following the Jews’ expulsion from Jerusalem, many migrated north and settled there, where Jewish intellectual life flourished.

“Judah HaNasi lived there when he edited the Mishnah,” Gordon noted.

Duke University began excavating a residential area of Sepphoris in the late 1980s, Gordon said, and found concrete evidence of Jewish life, including private ritual baths known as mikvahs in the homes, as well as dining vessels carved from stone that were referenced in the Talmud as being insusceptible to ritual impurity.

More on the Syriac mosaics at Urfa

SYRIAC WATCH: Mosaics reveal ancient styles in Turkey's southeast. Hurriyet Daily News has an article from ŞANLIURFA – Anadolu Agency on the recently excavated tombs at Urfa Castle (ancient Edessa) with some new details. Excerpt:
An archaeologist from the Şanlıurfa Museum, Bekir Çetin, said the region was reputed as the necropolis (cemetery) of the Edessa city. The necropolis was used by Syriacs between 132 B.C. and 244 A.D.

“Generally, we see such tombs in the southern, southeastern and the eastern Anatolia regions, as well as in Syria,” he added.

He said the tombs were mostly built as family chamber tombs and the dead bodies were placed inside holes on the walls.

“These mosaics generally have herbal and geometrical motifs. Particularly in one of them, mosaics depicting the portraits of the dead were made and the names of these people were written in Syriac. When we look at a mosaic, we clearly see the dressing sense of their era and men’s hair and beards. With women, we see that they covered their head. When comparing the people on these mosaics and today’s people, we think that the culture of this era still exists among the local people living there.”
Background here and links.

Archaeology in 2017

PREDICTIONS: 5 Big Archaeology Stories to Watch for in 2017 (Owen Jarus, Live Science). Yes, the lists for 2017 are already starting. I hope Mr. Jarus is right about more Dead Sea Scrolls being discovered.

Jerusalem Bible quiz winners

COMPETITION: American, Israeli win Bible quiz in Jerusalem. Yair Shahak defeats wife in International Adult Bible Contest, shares prize with Israeli Yafit Silman (JTA/Times of Israel).
Yair Shahak of New York City was one of two winners of the International Adult Bible Contest in Jerusalem.

Shahak, 28, representing the US, shared the honor with Israeli Yafit Silman, according to Ynet News. Shahak’s wife, Yaelle Frohlich, was also a finalist in the competition, representing Canada. The contest ended on December 28.

The contest — sort of a spelling bee, but with biblical verses rather than words — has the contestants answer the minutest of details about the most obscure of biblical books. Contestants must locate or complete fragments of biblical verses, identify who said which quotation to whom, or name geographical details of the ancient Land of Israel.

That sounds like a good quiz.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Ancient cross and menorah etchings

HOLIDAY CAVE ICONOGRAPHY: Ancient Cross and Menorah Carvings Found Side by Side (Mindy Weisberger, Live Science).
Engravings of a cross and a menorah carved thousands of years ago were recently found in a cave in Israel, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). Though the two figures were etched close together on a cistern wall, they were likely created hundreds of years apart, the archaeologists said.

Hikers unexpectedly came upon the ancient carvings while exploring subterranean passages in southern Israel. Archaeologists with the IAA dated the menorah carving to the second century A.D. and the cross to the fourth century A.D. The menorah, which has seven arms and three legs, represents the traditional candelabra that stood in the Second Temple in Jerusalem, IAA experts said in a statement.

The discovery of two side-by-side symbols associated with Judaism and Christianity, respectively, coincides with a rare overlap of the Hanukkah and Christmas holidays in 2016, with the first night of Hanukkah falling on Christmas Eve. Such an alignment has happened only four times since 1900 — in 1902, 1940, 1978 and 2016, reported.

'Tis Still the Season. For many post (including lots of recent ones) on ancient menorahs, start here and follow the links.

Review of Edelman et al. (eds), Religion in the Achaemenid Persian Empire

THE BIBLICAL REVIEW BLOG: “Religion in the Achaemenid Persian Empire” (William Brown). A review of Religion in the Achaemenid Persian Empire. Edited by Diana Edelman, Anne Fitzpatrick-McKinley, and Philippe Guillaume. Tubingen, Germany: 2016, Mohr Siebeck, pp. 390.

I noted the book last summer here.

Ancient milestones on display

MONUMENTS: Roman Milestones on Display at KKL-JNF Archaeological Garden. Roman Milestones Moved from Highway 38 to KKL-JNF’s Archaeological Garden in Givat Yeshayahu. This fascinating garden is open to the public (Jerusalem Post).
Thanks to a joint effort of KKL-JNF and the Israel Antiquities Authority, impressive Roman milestones were moved to the archaeological gardens located in the courtyard of KKL-JNF’s Givat Yeshayahu offices, where they can be viewed safely by visitors.

The Roman Empire paved an extensive network of roads in the land of Israel, which contributed towards making their presence conspicuous and making safe trade possible.

The Romans installed stone obelisks on the roads at a distance of 1,480 meters (a Roman mile) from each other. These stones provided walkers with information about their location, and some of them had inscriptions that glorified the ruler under whose jurisdiction the road was paved.

"KKL-JNF" stands for "Keren Kayemeth LeYisrael-Jewish National Fund." Givat Yeshayahu is about 10 kilometers south of Beit Shemesh. For some other archaeological gardens in Israel, see here and links.

Last Biblical Studies Carnival of 2016

JENNIFER GUO: Biblical Studies Carnival – December 2016. HT James McGrath.

UPDATE: Phil Long is of the view that biblioblogging is not dead (in response to Jim West): Biblical Studies Carnival 130 – December 2016. Well, Jim did carefully qualify his post with "most, "by and large," etc. If biblioblogging is dead, I certainly did not get the memo.

"Temple Mount"

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Islamic guards try to boot guide for saying ‘Temple Mount’ on Temple Mount. Waqf officials haul Israeli archaeologist in front of Israeli police for not using term ‘Haram al-Sharif’ during historical tour of site; police advise him to refrain from saying ‘Temple Mount’ for rest of visit (Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel).
Islamic authorities managing the Temple Mount attempted to have a veteran Israeli archaeologist ejected from the Jerusalem flashpoint holy site on Sunday for using the term “Temple Mount” in a lecture to American students. Waqf guards brought him to Israeli police at the site to complain, and the police, while saying there were no legal grounds to eject him, advised him to refrain from using the phrase “Temple Mount” for the rest of the group’s visit.

A multi-faith group of students from the University of California, Los Angeles, was visiting the Temple Mount as part of a trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories to understand facts on the ground. Dr. Gabriel Barkay was brought in to explain the archaeological history of the site.

Barkay, a veteran Israeli archaeologist, devotes much of his time in recent years to sifting through tons of fill illegally excavated from the Temple Mount by the Waqf — the Islamic endowment charged with administering the flashpoint holy site — in the 1990s.

The incident, which was witnessed by this reporter and which other tour guides said was not without precedent, highlighted ever-present tensions over the nomenclature used at the site, months after Israel furiously protested a UNESCO resolution that refers to The Temple Mount and Western Wall as solely Muslim sites.


Dr. Gabriel Barkay (Barkai) is also the head of the Temple Mount Sifting Project, on which more here and many, many links.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Studia Philonica Annual XXVIII, 2016 — Runia Festschrift

The Studia Philonica Annual XXVIII, 2016: Studies in Hellenistic Judaism
David T. Runia (Editor), Gregory E. Sterling (Editor)

ISBN 9780884141815
Status Available
Price: $61.95
Binding Hardback
Publication Date October 2016
Pages 476

Celebrate the contributions of David T. Runia

The Studia Philonica Annual is a scholarly journal devoted to the study of Hellenistic Judaism, particularly the writings and thought of the Hellenistic-Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria. More than fifteen scholars from around the world offer contributions to this special edition of the Annual in honor of Professor David T. Runia on the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday and retirement from his post as Master of Queens College, University of Melbourne. Professor Runia is internationally recognized as one of the world's foremost experts on Philo of Alexandria. As founder of The Studia Philonica Annual, he has been editor or coeditor for twenty-seven years. He initiated a Philo Bibliography project prior to the Annual and incorporated the bibliography into the Annual from the outset. It serves as the primary bibliography for Philonic studies worldwide.
Follow the link for ordering info etc.

Lim, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Very Short Introduction (revised)

The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Very Short Introduction

Timothy H. Lim

Very Short Introductions

• Introduces the historical and cultural context of the scrolls, through the archaeology and history of the Dead Sea region 2,000 years ago.
• Provides an accessible account of the leading interpretations of the scrolls, and how they have changed the way we understand the emergence of the Old Testament, Ancient Judaism, and Early Christianity.
• Discusses the scrolls' rise to the status of cultural icon, beginning with their discovery in the 1940s, to the political, legal, and scholarly controversies that still persist today.
• Navigates the ongoing scholarly debates over the archaeological site of Khirbet Qumran, the caves, and the marginalization of women
• Analyses the communities associated with the Scrolls and Essenes, the textual fluidity of the biblical texts, the formation of the canon, and the sectarian nature of early Christianity
• Part of the Very Short Introductions series - over eight million copies sold worldwide

New to this Edition:

• The Qumran-Essene theory that held sway in the last generation has been challenged by various scholars who have reassessed Roland de Vaux's interpretation of Khirbet Qumran, and the close link between the communities reflected in the Scrolls and the archaeological site. This edition discusses the alternate views to the Qumran-Essene theory
• Expands the discussion on the issue of 'canon', showing how the sectarian community did have an understanding of authoritative scriptures, forming a broadly bipartite canon of the Torah and the prophets
• Discusses the cultural significance of the Scrolls, including the most recent online digital projects
Coming in March of 2017 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the first discovery of the Scrolls.

Keim, Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer

Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer: Structure, Coherence, Intertextuality

Katharina E. Keim, University of Manchester

In Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer: Structure, Coherence, Intertextuality Katharina E. Keim offers a description of the literary character of Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer, an enigmatic work of the late-eighth-to-early-ninth centuries CE. Katharina E. Keim explores the work’s distinctive literary features through an analysis of its structure and coherence. These literary features, when taken together with the work’s intertextual relationships with antecedent and contemporaneous Christian and Jewish (rabbinic and non-rabbinic) texts, reveal Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer to be an innovative work, and throw light on a new turn in Jewish literature following the rise of Islam.

Gribetz et al. (eds.), Genesis Rabbah in Text and Context

Genesis Rabbah in Text and Context
Ed. by Sarit Kattan Gribetz, David M. Grossberg, Martha Himmelfarb, and Peter Schäfer

[Genesis Rabbah in Text und Kontext.]
2016. IX, 288 pages.
Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 166

129,00 €
ISBN 978-3-16-154702-7

Published in English.
Genesis Rabbah, the earliest rabbinic commentary on Genesis, was composed in Roman Palestine around the 5th century CE. In this volume, an international team of scholars explores the literary formation and textual transmission of this work in late antiquity, and the historical, cultural, religious, and political contexts from which it emerged. Some essays study the multi-layered nature of this text, the relationship of the traditions within the collection to one another and to other compositions, its redaction, its manuscript history, and the interpretive strategies it applies to biblical verses. Other essays explore how the midrash engages with Greco-Roman literature, competing theological and exegetical ideas found in contemporary Christian works, and other genres of Jewish literature. The collection aims to advance scholarly conversations about the classical rabbinic corpus; midrash; religions of late antiquity; interactions between Jews, Christians, and others in the Greco-Roman world; and the reception of Genesis Rabbah in medieval and modern times.

Eldar, Hebrew Language Study in the Middle Ages

Hebrew Language Study in the Middle Ages

Texts and Studies

By Ilan Eldar

Publisher: The Hebrew University Magnes Press
Linguistics and Language, Hebrew and Jewish Languages
Publish date: August 2016
Language: Hebrew
Danacode: 45-351106
ISBN: 978-965-493-864-8
Cover: Paperback
Pages: 426
Weight: 800 gr.

Prof. Ilan Eldars study of linguistics and reading theory in the middle ages, is brought to you in this publication. These twenty articles, written over thirty-three years and published in scientific journals, memorial publications and jubilee volumes, include unpublished texts from manuscripts and Genizah segments and deal with a variety of historiographical and linguistic issues: The beginnings of the glottology of the Hebrew language; The study of the Hebrew language among Jews of Germany, Italy, Spain, Yemen and France; Methods of structure and editing of dictionaries, derivation systems, concept of triliteral root, division of verbal stems, vowel length and substitution of letters.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Reif and Egger-Wenzel (eds.), Ancient Jewish Prayers and Emotions

Ancient Jewish Prayers and Emotions
Emotions associated with Jewish prayer in and around the Second Temple period

Ed. by Reif, Stefan C. / Egger-Wenzel, Renate
Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature Studies

Aims and Scope
Given the recent interest in the emotions presupposed in early religious literature, it has been thought useful to examine in this volume how the Jews and early Christians expressed their feelings within the prayers recorded in some of their literature. Specialists in their fields from academic institutions around the world have analysed important texts relating to this overall theme and to what is revealed with regard to such diverse topics as relations with God, exegesis, education, prophecy, linguistic expression, feminism, happiness, grief, cult, suicide, non-Jews, Hellenism, Qumran and Jerusalem. The texts discussed are in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic and are important for a scientific understanding of how Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity developed their approaches to worship, to the construction of their theology and to the feelings that lay behind their religious ideas and practices. The articles contribute significantly to an historical understanding of how Jews maintained their earlier traditions but also came to terms with the ideology of the dominant Hellenistic culture that surrounded them.
This book was published a year ago, but I seem to have missed it when it came out. So here it is.

Heidelberg conference on "Material Aspects of Reading"

H-JUDAIC: CFP "Material Aspects of Reading", International Conference, February 11–13, 2018, Heidelberg.
Taking its starting point from this area of problems, the conference will investigate the »Material Aspects of Reading«, with a main focus on Mediterranean Antiquity from the Second Temple Period to Early Islamic and Karaite times.
Follow the link for further particulars and information on submitting a paper proposal. The deadline is 10 February 2017.

Fidanzio (ed.), The Caves of Qumran

The Caves of Qumran
Proceedings of the International Conference, Lugano 2014

Edited by Marcello Fidanzio, Facoltà di Teologia di Lugano
In Qumran studies, the attention of scholars has largely been focused on the Dead Sea Scrolls, while archaeology has concentrated above all on the settlement. This volume presents the proceedings of an international conference (Lugano 2014) dedicated entirely to the caves of Qumran. The papers deal with both archaeological and textual issues, comparing the caves in the vicinity of Qumran between themselves and their contents with the other finds in the Dead Sea region. The relationships between the caves and the settlement of Qumran are re-examined and their connections with the regional context are investigated. The original inventory of the materials excavated from the caves by Roland de Vaux is published for the first time in appendix to the volume.

Female scribes (sofrot)

THE LATEST ON FEMALE SCRIBES: Female ‘sofrot’ inscribe themselves in history books. Women across the Jewish denominational spectrum are binding together to pen holy texts according to ancient tradition (RICH TENORIO, Times of Israel).
In the early 2000s, women interested in scribal arts were forced to procure their equipment through subterfuge.

“The only way for a woman to purchase scribal materials such as kosher parchment and ink was to engage in an act of deception, by either sending a man to make the purchases on her behalf, or misrepresenting herself when making the purchase (i.e. not letting the seller know that he was selling to a soferet),” said Rabbi Linda Motzkin of Temple Sinai in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Slowly, however, female scribes began taking their work out into the open, and next year will mark a decade since the completion of the first sefer Torah credited to a soferet, or female scribe.

Since then, the profession has been putting down roots: Sofrot have continued developing professional networks while the next generation is studying scribal arts (safrut). There are about 10 sofrot who have been involved in writing a Torah, and 30 others who have been involved in Torah repair.

While Sofrot have largely come from Reform and Conservative Judaism, recently the profession is reaching out to Orthodox communities as well.

PaleoJudaica was already noting female scribes back in 2005 (see here and here). The completion of the Torah scroll by Jen Taylor Friedman (who is also the creator of Tefillin Barbie) was noted here. And for more on female scribes from antiquity to the present, see here, here, and here.

Hayes review, collected papers, SBL 2016

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: What's Divine About Divine Law? #SBLAAR16. The papers and the response for this SBL 2016 session on Christine Hayes's recent book have already been posted individually by AJR (see here and follow the links), but they have now been collected on a single page with a key excerpt for each.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Kloppenborg Festschrift

Scribal Practices and Social Structures among Jesus Adherents
Essays in Honour of John S. Kloppenborg

Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium, 285

Editors: Arnal W.E., Ascough R.S., Derrenbacker Jr. R.A., Harland P.A.

Year: 2016
ISBN: 978-90-429-3391-0
Pages: XXIV-630 p.
Price: 115 EURO

Building on the influential efforts of John S. Kloppenborg to integrate our understanding of Christian origins more closely and carefully within its cultural matrix, this volume explores two main phenomena of Hellenistic and Roman antiquity: scribes and scribalism, on the one hand, and voluntary associations, especially as evidenced in honorific and other inscriptions, on the other. In part one, nineteen essays by both established and younger scholars explore ancient scribalism, bureaucracy, literacy, and book production, with a view to drawing innovative new conclusions about a range of ancient Christian writings, including the gospels, Q, the Gospel of Thomas and other Nag Hammadi writings, the Letter of James, and apocalyptic literature, as well as insights into the synoptic problem and memory theory. Part two offers nine articles drawing on papyrological and epigraphic evidence to illuminate group behaviors and the concrete dynamics of smaller social bodies in the Hellenistic and Roman world, with several of the papers explicitly applying this analysis to the ekklesiai established by Paul. The essays in this section contribute to a more detailed understanding of ancient voluntary associations, and along with them, a richer picture of ancient values, economics, politics, and clothing.

Jesus and those Temple Mount floor times

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: ARCHAEOLOGISTS UNEARTH FLOOR TILES JESUS MAY HAVE WALKED ON (COREY BARNETT, World Religion News). I suppose this is possible, depending on where exactly the flooring is from. But it has only become a story because apparently Gabriel Barkay (Barkai) has raised the possibility:
Archaeologist Gaby Barkay was very excited about the findings and the restorations. He sees them as a connection between his people and his ancestors. He explained that the floors may have been walked on by the ancestors of the Israelis as they went about their religious duties and so have a lot of sentimental value for the Jews. He says the floors tiles are also going to be very important to the Christians as they were trodded on by Christ himself. He also says that this is the very floor on which the coins may have rolled on when Jesus drove out the sellers in the temple.
The article came out on 26 December, so it looks like the opportunity to get those floor tiles back into the news cycle a bit was not wasted. 'Tis the Season.

HT Explorator 19.35-36. Past posts on the, in itself quite important, discovery and reconstruction of those floor times from the Temple courtyard by the Temple Mount Sifting Project are here and links.

Guarding Leptis Magna in Libya

PUNIC WATCH: Libyan Civilians Take Up Arms and Form Protective Shield Around Ancient Ruins of Leptis Magna (MARK MILLER, Ancient Origins).
A group of armed Libyan civilians concerned about the potential of their country’s rich ancient heritage are patrolling Leptis Magna, an ancient city of Rome. They fear the Islamic State will do in Libya what it has done in Iraq and Syria: defaced and destroyed some of the richest and most important artifacts and buildings in world history.

Though the city of Leptis Magna is in ruins now, some fine architecture and art remain. There are only around 20 citizens armed with Kalashnikov rifles surrounding Leptis Magna and the surrounding archaeological ruins, which covers an area of about 120 acres (50 hectares).

This article summarizes a number of media reports and gives some background on the city. And there is additional information in this AP article: Unlikely saviors of Libya's Roman remains.

Leptis Magna has come up a couple of times at PaleoJudaica (here and here).

More on that Second Temple-era road in Jerusalem

ARCHAEOLOGY: Ancient Jerusalem Road Hints at Possible Reason for Jewish Revolt Against Rome. Jerusalem dig shows that Herodian-period street was wrongly attributed to King Herod; excavations dismiss the idea that poorer people lived in the lower part of the city (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
The archaeological excavation of a 2,000-year-old underground road in Jerusalem, inaugurated with much fanfare last week, will probably take another decade to complete. But it is already yielding new insights into the history of the city during the Second Temple period.

The two main new insights are summarized in the headline, but read it all for details. Hurry, though. This a premium article, so it will go behind the subscription wall soon.

Background here.


HAPPY NEW YEAR AND ALL BEST WISHES FOR 2017! Have a great year and please continue to make PaleoJudaica a regular part of it.