Saturday, February 18, 2017

Ancient Nubia

THE WORLD IS FULL OF HISTORY: Ancient Nubia: A Brief History (Owen Jarus, Live Science). Ancient Nubia's history has a famous overlap with Second Temple Jewish history (or legend) in the Book of Acts in the story of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch to a Jesus follower. (More on that here.) This is not mentioned in the current article, but note this:
In ancient times, some of their rulers were woman (sic: read "women") who were sometimes referred to in ancient texts as "Candaces" or "Kandakes." Archaeologists have found carved images of them revealing that they sometimes liked to be depicted overweight.
The story in Acts (8:26) tells us that the eunuch was "a minister of Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians." This refers to the Nubian kingdom of Kush, and "Candace" seems to have been the title of their queens rather than a personal name.

Of Canaanites, coins, and palm trees

NUMISMATICS: PALM READING (Oliver Hoover, Pocket Change Blog).

No, not that kind of palm reading. This Pocket Change post is on how the Canaanites came to be known as "Phoenicians" and where the term "Punic" comes from, illustrated with coins from Tyre, Sidon, etc.

The palm motif also appears on ancient Jewish coins and other iconography. Some examples of the latter are here, here, and here.

Cross file under Phoenician Watch and Punic Watch.

Black metal watchers

MUSIC: Saille Posts New Song "Benei ha'Elohim" (xFiruath,
Belgian Black metal band Saille just released the lyric video for new track "Benei ha'Elohim." The song is taken from forthcoming album "Gnosis," which will be released on March 17th via Code666. ...
The lyrics are well informed about the watchers myth. And the music goes well with the story.

As I've noted before, death and black metal bands often take a well-informed interest in ancient historical and esoteric traditions. For relevant past posts, see here and here and links.

Spolsky, The Languages of Diaspora and Return

The Languages of Diaspora and Return

by Bernard Spolsky (Bar-Ilan University).

Until quite recently, the term Diaspora (usually with the capital) meant the dispersion of the Jews in many parts of the world. Now, it is recognized that many other groups have built communities distant from their homeland, such as Overseas Chinese, South Asians, Romani, Armenians, Syrian and Palestinian Arabs. To explore the effect of exile of language repertoires, the article traces the sociolinguistic development of the many Jewish Diasporas, starting with the community exiled to Babylon, and following through exiles in Muslim and Christian countries in the Middle Ages and later. It presents the changes that occurred linguistically after Jews were granted full citizenship. It then goes into details about the phenomenon and problem of the Jewish return to the homeland, the revitalization and revernacularization of the Hebrew that had been a sacred and literary language, and the rediasporization that accounts for the cases of maintenance of Diaspora varieties.

Henkelman and Redard (eds.), Persian Religion in the Achaemenid Period

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Persian Religion in the Achaemenid Period. Notice of a new book: Henkelman, Wouter & Céline Redard (eds.). 2017. Persian religion in the Achaemenid period (Classica et Orientalia 16). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Friday, February 17, 2017

More on the Sefaria online Talmud

TALMUD WATCH: Talmud & Commentaries (Louis Finkelman, Detroit Jewish News).
Sefaria, a website founded in 2013 that aims to put the seemingly infinite Jewish canon online for free, has published an acclaimed translation of the Talmud in English. The translation, which includes explanatory notes in relatively plain language, was started by scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in 1965 and is considered by many to be the best in its class.

The Steinsaltz edition of the Talmud has been in print for decades in modern Hebrew, with an English translation coming out more recently, and parts of it already exist on the internet. But this is the first time it is being put online in its entirety for free.

“Ninety percent of the world’s Jews speak Hebrew and English,” said Daniel Septimus, Sefaria’s executive director. “The Talmud is in Aramaic. It will now be online in Hebrew and English. From an accessibility point of view, it’s a game changer.”

Sefaria rolled out 22 tractates of the Steinsaltz English edition last week and will be publishing the entire Hebrew translation over the course of 2017. The rest of the English edition, which is not yet finished, will be published online as it is completed. The translation’s publication was made possible by a multimillion-dollar deal with the Steinsaltz edition’s publishers, Milta and Koren Publishers Jerusalem, and financed by the William Davidson Foundation, a family charity based in Metro Detroit.

The edition will be known as the William Davidson Talmud.

Besides its edition being free, Sefaria’s founders say its version of the Steinsaltz Talmud is better than competitors’ because it is untethered to the Talmud’s classic printed form. Since the mid-15th century, the Talmud has been published with unpunctuated text in a column in the middle of the page, its commentaries wrapping around it.
A long, informative article. Background here.

The Karaite community in California

KARAITE WATCH: A Karaite prayer: Little-known Jewish community builds center to tell its story (David A.M. Wilensky, J.).
B’nai Israel is the only Karaite synagogue in North America, serving the diaspora’s largest Karaite community — about 800 members live within driving distance of the synagogue.

Karaite Jews differ from Rabbanite Jews (as Karaites call the majority of Jews who follow rabbinic tradition) in that they reject oral law — the Talmud and rabbinic authority — relying instead on the literal text of the Bible. The two communities coexisted until the 10th century, when foundational Jewish (Rabbanite) leader and thinker Saadia Gaon denounced Karaites as apostates and sought to exclude them from the Jewish community. Relationships between these two Jewish communities have varied across time and place, but that initial antagonism has long colored the relationship.

In the Bay Area, where few Rabbanite Jews are aware of Karaite Judaism, that relationship is cordial, though not always close on an institutional level. But on a personal level, many Karaite Jews are involved with the wider Bay Area Jewish community. Many have had bar and bat mitzvahs in Rabbanite synagogues
The article has lots of information on Karaites, their modern history, and their current institutions and practices. And one excerpt on the new cultural center:
To ensure that future, the congregation has embarked on a relatively small construction project that will have a large and visible impact on their community: They are renovating their existing 3,500-square-foot prefab building and creating a 1,000-square-foot Karaite Jewish Cultural Center, attached to the synagogue, which will serve as a combination education program, museum and social center.

There is a Karaite Heritage Center in Israel, but this will be the only similar institution in the diaspora.

For a community this small, a lot is riding on the project. “If this current generation of Karaite Jews in the United States fails, it’ll be very difficult to kick-start the movement in any organized fashion,” said Shawn Lichaa, a pillar of the local Karaite community.
Worth reading if full if you have any interest in the Karaites.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on the Karaites are here (with more on the Karaite community in Daly City) and links (cf. here).

McDonald, The Formation of the Biblical Canon: 2 Volumes

The Formation of the Biblical Canon: 2 Volumes
By: Lee Martin McDonald

Published: 26-01-2017
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
ISBN: 9780567669339
Imprint: Bloomsbury T&T Clark
RRP: £250.00
Online price: £225.00
Save £25.00 (10%)

About The Formation of the Biblical Canon: 2 Volumes

Lee Martin McDonald provides a magisterial overview of the development of the biblical canon -- the emergence of the list of individual texts that constitutes the Christian bible. In these two volumes -- in sum more than double the length of his previous works on this subject -- McDonald presents his most in-depth overview to date. McDonald shows students and researchers how the list of texts that constitute 'the bible' was once far more fluid than it is today and guides readers through the minefield of different texts, different versions, and the different lists of texts considered 'canonical' that abounded in antiquity. Questions of the origin and transmission of texts are introduced as well as consideration of innovations in the presentation of texts, collections of documents, archaeological finds and Church councils.

In the first volume McDonald reexamines issues of canon formation once considered settled, and sets the range of texts that make up the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) in their broader context. Each individual text is discussed, as are the cultural, political and historical situations surrounding them. The second volume considers the New Testament, and the range of so-called 'apocryphal' gospels that were written in early centuries, and used by many Christian groups before the canon was closed. Comprehensive appendices showing various canon lists for both Old and New Testaments and for the bible as as a whole are also included.
Follow the link for the TOC and ordering information.

Report on Bethsaida, 2016 season

The Consortium for the Bethsaida Excavation Project:
Report on the 2016 Excavation Season

By Rami Arav, Carl Savage, Kate Raphael, Nicolae Roddy, Vanessa Workman, Kenneth M. Bensimon
University of Nebraska, Omaha
Bethsaida Excavation
February 2017

More on 1 Maccabees and the Hasmoneans

READING ACTS: First Maccabees as Pro-Hasmonean Propaganda. On this subject, see also this post.

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Roman-era gate at Beit She’arim

WHAT'S IN A NAME? Archaeologists shocked to find ancient gateway at ‘House of Gates.’ Excavation at Beit She’arim in northern Israel unearths fortifications of Roman-era Jewish town where the Mishna was written (Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel).
With a name like Beit She’arim, Hebrew for “House of Gates,” it seems obvious that the UNESCO world heritage site would have ancient portals. Still, archaeologists from the University of Haifa were surprised to stumble across a massive gateway during recent excavations at the site in northern Israel.

Half of an impressive northeast-facing gate built of limestone blocks, with postholes for doors and locks, abutting a circular tower, along a road leading into the ancient town, turned up during a dig in the fall of 2016, the school announced Wednesday.


The gate turned up in the even tinier town of Beit Zaid, a moshav founded by Jewish pioneer Alexander Zaid, who discovered Beit She’arim right next door. Tali Zaid, his granddaughter and one of the 74 people who live in the community, happened upon some ancient-looking stones in her yard a few years ago during renovations on her home.

[Archaeologist Adi] Erlich got approval from the Israel Antiquities Authority to dig up the yard this past fall, and uncovered the gate during excavations from September to November.

Though the gate hasn’t yet been dated, the University of Haifa team was certain it was associated with the Roman period.

Erlich was astonished by the discovery.

“Most of the settlements in the Roman period aren’t fortified, and certainly not a relatively small Jewish town that wasn’t even considered an official Roman town. There were isolated fortified Jewish towns in the north, like Yodfat, but even those towns that were large and central didn’t include a large and impressive gate like this,” she said.

Some past posts on Beit She'arim (Beit Shearim) are here and links (cf. here and here).

The Talmud on public schools

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Talmud to Betsy DeVos: Yes, We Need Public Schools. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ rabbinical thinking on the relationship of public goods and private obligations explains the advantages of universal education accessible to all.
Maybe it’s because I have politics on the brain—and who doesn’t, these days?—but this week’s Daf Yomi reading seemed almost designed to address the big political and social questions that Americans have been debating lately. The fight over the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary, for instance, raised the issue of public schools: Are they a crucial democratic institution or, as DeVos and her allies believe, a bureaucratic monopoly that should be undermined by privatization and vouchers?

For a Jewish answer, you could turn to Bava Batra 21a, where the Talmud praises the memory of a man called Yehoshua ben Gamla, one of the last High Priests before the destruction of the Temple. He is “remembered for the good,” Rav says, because he created a system of public schools in the Land of Israel. In this way, he preserved the existence of Judaism itself: “If not for him the Torah would have been forgotten from the Jewish people.” Before Yehoshua ben Gamla’s time, the Gemara explains, Torah was taught at home, father to son, in accordance with Deuteronomy 11:19: “And you shall teach them to your sons.”

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

The Maccabean Revolt (2)

READING ACTS: Factors Leading to the Maccabean Revolt (Part 2). "For the writer of 1 Maccabees, violence was indeed the answer." Yep.

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

Ge'ez class takes off at University of Toronto

ETHIOPIC WATCH: U of T students flock to ancient language Ge'ez course, funded in part by The Weeknd. Deciphering ancient languages can help us learn about a country's ancient past – even if you don't know how to pronounce the words (David Silverberg, Now Toronto).
How does someone teach a language when we have no idea what it might actually sound like?

That's one of the questions for U of T's Robert Holmsted, who's teaching the university's course on the liturgical Ethiopian language Ge'ez.

In its first semester at U of T, his class has five undergraduates and five graduate students enrolled, and several more students auditing the class. They all realize that deciphering ancient languages can help us learn about a country's ancient past.

Ge'ez has a liturgical tradition, so it's an overstatement to say that we have no idea what it sounded like. But, yes, we have no direct evidence for its exact pronunciation in antiquity and we have to resort to reconstruction. The same is true for Hebrew and Aramaic.

Ten students in an introductory class on an obscure ancient language is quite a good number. Congratulations to Professor Holsted and best wishes to the new UT Ethiopic program for more successes.

Background here and links.

Restoration of ancient mikvaot at Temple Mount

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH, VIDEO EDITION: Watch: Second Temple mikvehs restored near Temple Mount. Kevin Bermeister joined the Jerusalem 5800 project to restore the mikvehs south of the Temple Mount. Watch a virtual tour of the site (Eliran Baruch, Arutz Sheva).
Bermeister has now partnered with the Jerusalem 5800 project to restore the numerous mikvehs (ritual baths) situated south of the Temple Mount in area known as the Ofel since biblical times and located between the City of David and the Mount.

The project revealed new archaeological layers just tens of meters from Temple Mount.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Murex shells from the Temple Mount

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The Temple Mount Sifting Project has found a murex trunculus: a rock snail shell.
What makes the murex trunculus so special is that they are connected with the ancient process of making tehelet, the blue dye we know from the Bible that was used in priestly garments and the Israelites’ tzit tzit (fringes). This snail family was also used to make the purple dye known in the Bible as argaman.


So what was this murex shell doing on the Temple Mount? Any time we find a shell, we know that it was used by humans because Jerusalem is too far from the sea for sea creatures (and their shells) to dwell there. This means that shells were brought to Jerusalem for a purpose. We have discovered over 20 of these murex trunculus shells in the sifting, and it leads us to wonder why. Is it possible that there was a workshop for dye production on the Temple Mount? Perhaps these shells were used to create the dye for fabrics used in the Temple. Maybe it was produced on site for purity reasons.

Unfortunately, we can’t date these shells until we have evidence that would link them to another, datable, artifact such as something else used in cloth or dye production. With more funding, we might be able to carbon date them, but each test costs about $400 and in order to reach statistical significance, we would need to test samples from 20 shells. Regardless, there is a lot of research yet to be completed on this, but these shells certainly raise a lot of really interesting questions.
For much more on the tekhelet dye, made from the murex shells and used for bluish purple coloring, start here and follow the links. The dye was used in ancient Israel on priestly vestments and on fringes on regular people's clothing. More on the Temple Mount Sifting Project is here and many links.

Diodorus Siculus and ANE history

THE ASOR BLOG: Diodorus of Sicily’s Library and the Ancient Near East (Jan P. Stronk).
Diodorus of Sicily, a Greek, was born as a member of an obviously well-to-do family in Agyrium on Sicily c. 90 BCE. He spent some years in Egypt (from about 60 BCE) and then travelled to Rome, where he more or less settled and started to write his Bibliotheca Historica (Historical Library), a work in forty books (= chapters), which took him some thirty years. Regrettably, part of this work was lost: only books one to five and eleven to twenty survive (nearly) completely, the rest does so in a fragmentary state. The last complete copy of the work is said to have been destroyed in 1453 CE, when the Ottoman army took Constantinople, but before that time, parts of Diodorus’ work already had found their way into many other ancient and Byzantine sources.

So much for the backgrounds of the work. But what makes this work so valuable, not merely for me but for many ancient historians? The answer is hidden in the work’s title: in the end, it effectively is a library. To compose his work, Diodorus based himself upon the work of previous writers, some mentioned by name, more by indication (altogether at least some 144 authors can be traced). Following this method, Diodorus preserved fragments of many works now partially or even completely lost while he described the history of the East, of Greece, Sicily, Carthage, Rome, the vicissitudes of Alexander the Great and the Diadochs’ Empires. Equally important is that Diodorus’ work is our sole written witness for certain periods and/or occurrences, a reason why we should not underestimate the meaning of the Bibliotheca.
I fully agree with this assessment and am delighted to hear of Dr. Stronk's work on Diodorus's Bibliotheca. Some recent PaleoJudaica posts on Diodorus and the importance of his work for the history of Second Temple Judaism are here, here, and here.

The Maccabean Revolt (1)

READING ACTS: Factors Leading to the Maccabean Revolt (Part 1). A recent PaleoJudaica post involving the same events is here.

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

Longacre on the DSS and the textual development of the Pentateuch

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Reflections on the Textual Development of the Pentateuch in Light of Documented Evidence (Drew Longacre).
Many have discussed the significant editorial differences evident in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the pluriformity of the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures in the Second Temple period is now common knowledge. The differentiated state of the tradition already in the third century BCE (compare, for example, the “pre-Samaritan” 4QExodus-Leviticus and the Septuagint) suggests that many of the major differences between pentateuchal witnesses were created already in the fourth century or even earlier. Yet, these documented editorial changes still reflect typologically late developments on a much more restricted scale than those typically suggested by source and redaction critics. These latter stages of the development of the text of the Pentateuch are—and will probably always remain—undocumented hypotheses. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Dead Sea Scrolls provide a limited window into the patterns of text production that can be expected in the Persian period, and literary critics cannot afford to ignore these lessons.
The first essay in AJR's current series on the Dead Sea Scrolls (in honor of the 70th anniversary of their discovery) was noted here.

More ISIS damage to Palmyra

PALMYRA WATCH: Russian video shows fresh IS damage in Palmyra (AP). The drone footage shows additional damage to the ancient architecture of the site, possibly with more to come.

Background here and links.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

VanderKam on Qumran "Cave 12"

UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME: New Dead Sea Scroll cave reports may be ‘premature,’ scholar says. Professor Emeritus James VanderKam issues some salutary cautions concerning the recent reports of a 12th Qumran scrolls cave (which contained no actual scrolls):
“In 1952, after the earliest scrolls finds, archaeologists made a survey of hundreds of caves and openings in the general vicinity of Khirbet Qumran,” VanderKam says. “Some 230 of them contained nothing of interest, but 26 housed pottery like that found in the first scrolls cave. The most recent find appears to be another one like those explored in 1952, although it does seem to have more direct evidence that scrolls were at one time lodged in the cave.”

VanderKam notes that the discovery is intriguing, but says more needs to be determined from the archaeologists’ findings.

“As with any archaeological discovery, it is great to have the new information. It is also of considerable interest that the cave is in the Qumran area,” he says. “However, given the fact that other caves in the district, besides the 11 that held the Dead Sea Scrolls, contained pottery of the same sort as Qumran Cave 1, it seems a bit premature to call it Qumran Cave 12. The people of the scrolls apparently used a fairly extensive area around Khirbet Qumran, so it is not surprising if there would be evidence of their presence in additional nearby caves.”

“I look forward to learning more details about the finds in the cave, such as the dates of the various items discovered. And, if scrolls were once stored in the jars and have been removed, I really hope they can be located and made available for study.”
Yes, to all of this.

That last point merits some unpacking. The largest hoard of Dead Sea Scrolls were found in Cave 4. They were just heaped in the cave, not kept in jars, so they were very poorly preserved. If there were scrolls in jars in this new cave ("Cave 12") and looters found them, where are they now? And what condition were the jars in? Were they intact? That could imply the survival of well-preserved scrolls, comparable to the scrolls of Cave 1. Some of the Cave 1 scrolls survived almost complete inside intact jars.

Then again, Professor VanderKam is right to retain some skepticism that any scrolls were ever in "Cave 12."

Watch this space. Background here and here.

Targum Neofiti Manuscript Online

AWOL: Targum Neofiti Manuscript Online. This was first posted at AWOL in 2014, but I seem to have missed it then. I'm keeping better track these days.

1 Maccabees and messianism

READING ACTS: Is There a Messiah in 1 Maccabees?
If the writer of 1 Maccabees positioned Judas as David-revisited, it would be unlikely that he would look forward to a future messiah. The book represents a staus quo sort of Judaism, and is “opposed to the Pharisees, the apocalypticists, and the many sectarians in Judea itself” (Fischer, “Maccabees,” 4:442). There is no “return of Judas” theme in 1 Maccabees. His successor Jonathan is enthroned as a king in purple and gold (10:59-66) and as high priest (10:18-21). The writer makes it quite clear that the “yoke of the gentiles was removed” under the leadership of Jonathan (13:41). 1 Maccabees might be described as having a completely realized eschatology because hope for an eschatological age are entirely fulfilled in the Hasmoneans.

That sounds pretty plausible to me. We tend to think of Second Temple Jewish eschatology as involving apocalyptic cataclysms and final judgments, and often it did. But the idea of an earthly paradise in an independent Jewish state goes back to the biblical prophets and remained a possible scenario.

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

Lied and Lundhaug (eds.), Snapshots of Evolving Traditions

Liv Ingeborg Lied and Hugo Lundhaug (Eds.), Snapshots of Evolving Traditions: Jewish and Christian Manuscript Culture, Textual Fluidity, and New Philology (De Gruyter, 2017)
My article, "Translating the Hekhalot Literature: Insights from New Philology," is on pp. 333-346.

The book was noted as forthcoming here, here, and here.

CFP: Traditions of Eastern Late Antiquity #AARSBL17

JAMES MCGRATH: Traditions of Eastern Late Antiquity #AARSBL17 Call for Papers. One or more of the sessions will be co-sponsored with the SBL Digital Humanities and Pseudepigrapha program units.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Leipzig Open Fragmentary Texts Series

AWOL: The Leipzig Open Fragmentary Texts Series (LOFTS).
The Leipzig Open Fragmentary Texts Series is a new effort to establish open editions of ancient works that survive only through quotations and text re-uses in later texts (i.e., those pieces of information that humanists call “fragments”). In the field of textual evidence, fragments are not portions of an original larger whole, but the result of a work of interpretation conducted by scholars who extract and collect information pertaining to lost works embedded in other surviving texts. These fragments include a great variety of formats that range from verbatim quotations to vague allusions and translations, which are only a more or less shadowy image of the original according to their closer or further distance from a literal citation.
AWOL first noted this important project back in 2013, but I seem to have missed it then.

I have two old essays online on the subject of quotation fragments:

A Worst-Case Scenario (Eldad and Modad)

Quotation Fragments (Pseudo-Hecataeus)

The subject matter is more wide-ranging than the titles imply.

UPDATE: See also Richard Bauckham's recent chapter "Eldad and Modad" in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1 (ed. Bauckham, Davila, and Panayotov; Eerdmans, 2013), pp. 244-256, and my article "Quotations from Lost Books in the Hebrew Bible: A New Translation and Introduction" in the same volume, pp. 673-698. And for many past PaleoJudaica posts on lost books (known only by title or quotation fragment(s) or manuscript fragment(s)), start here and follow the links.

The date of the Song of Deborah (Judges 5)

DR. SERGE FROLOV: Dating Deborah (
The Song of Deborah (Judges 5) is often seen as an ancient text, perhaps one of the oldest in the Tanach, but analysis of its language and contents suggests that it is a later Deuteronomistic composition.
This essay is based on the author's critical commentary on the Book of Judges and his peer-review article on this specific subject.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes

READING ACTS: Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the Beginning of the Rebellion.
Antiochus is often described as a “Hellenistic zealot” who sought to impose Hellenism on the “faithful” Jewish people. That is the impression one gets from reading 1 Maccabees, but the book is not necessarily “objective history.” There is really no evidence that indicates Antiochus was any more Hellenistic that any other Greek ruler, nor was his method of suppressing the Jewish nationalistic feelings particularly extreme by the standards of the day.
Oops, I got this post out of order. See Saturday's post in the link below for more on Antiochus and the Maccabean Revolt.

Past posts in Phil Long's series on the Second Temple Period are noted here and links.

Cueva and Martínez (eds.), Splendide Mendax

Edmund P. Cueva, Javier Martínez (ed.), Splendide Mendax: Rethinking Fakes and Forgeries in Classical, Late Antique, and Early Christian Literature. Groningen: Barkhuis, 2016. Pp. ix, 369. ISBN 9789491431982. €95.00.

Reviewed by Colin Whiting, American School of Classical Studies at Athens (

Publisher's Preview
[Authors and titles are listed below.]

Splendide Mendax: Rethinking Fakes and Forgeries in Classical, Late Antique, and Early Christian Literature is an edited volume containing 19 chapters about, very broadly, ancient fakes, forgeries, lying, deception, and so on. As such, it functions as a sort of companion volume to Fakes and Forgers of Classical Literature/Falsificaciones y falsarios de la Literatura Clásica, a 2010 volume edited by one of the present volume’s editors, Javier Martínez, and reviewed in BMCR 2012.07.20 by the other, Edmund P. Cueva. Martínez, with Isabel Velásquez, also edited a 2012 volume entitled Realidad, ficción y autenticidad en el mundo antiguo: La investigación ante documentos sospechosos (full bibliographic information available here).

The book includes coverage of The Gospel of Jesus' Wife and other New Testament Apocrypha, along with biblical and ancient Near Eastern vaticinia ex eventu (prophecies after the fact).

King Tut and the Chambers of Secrets?

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Does King Tutankhamun's tomb hold Queen Nefertiti's remains? New scans could reveal secret burial chambers hidden for 3,300 years (Ellie Zolfagharifard, Daily Mail).
• Some believe there are two ghost chambers and one may hold Nefertiti
• Previously scans led experts to say they were '90% sure' this was the case
• Second set of scans was recently done by National Geographic Society
• No announcement made, but sources say it did not find hidden rooms
• Polytechnic University Turin, Italy, plans to resume the search later this month
For background on this story, see here and follow the links. The news now is that (1) the National Geographic Society did some scans on the tomb and they have not announced that they found evidence of any secret chambers, but (2) the Polytechnic University Turin is going to do yet more scans. Maybe someday someone will find something. Not holding my breath.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Review of MacRae, Legible Religion

Duncan MacRae, Legible Religion. Books, Gods, and Rituals in Roman Culture. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press, 2016. Pp. 259. ISBN 9780674088719. $49.95.

Reviewed by Lindsay G. Driediger-Murphy, University of Calgary (


This is an excellent and important book. Duncan MacRae’s aim is to illuminate the centrality of Late Republican writings about religion (especially those lost and fragmentary texts usually described as ‘antiquarian’ or ‘technical’) to both Roman and modern understandings of what constituted ‘Roman religion’. This work encourages a re-evaluation of the place and significance of texts in Roman religion, and is sure to generate further progress in this field.

Ancient Judaism figures in the discussion:
Part 2, ‘Comparison’, comprises one of the most innovative chapters of the book, a comparison between the Roman civil theological writings and the Mishnah. Whilst acknowledging the significant differences between Roman and Jewish religious priorities and theologies, MacRae argues convincingly that we see in both Late Republican Rome and the writings of the rabbis the desire to textualize religion, and to present this textual instantiation as the definitive or normative version of each religion.

Steinfeld, Tractate Horayot

Tractate Horayot
Studies in the Mishna and Talmud

By Zvi Arie Steinfeld

Title Details
Danacode: 110-20236
ISBN: 978-965-226-382-7
Categories: Talmud and Rabbinic Literature
Published: December 2016
Edition: First
Language: Hebrew
17x24 cm
1200 gr
572 pages

In Stock
Price: $55.00 Internet Price: $47.00

The book is a compilation of studies of the Mishnah in Horayot and its counterparts in the Tosefta and midrashic texts, and on its issues, especially in the Bavli, but also in the Yerushalmi. Underlying the study is the goal to discover the original intentions of the Tannaim and the Amoraim, to understand the differences between them and the factors that led to these differences. Each of the book's chapters deals with one source from the tractate. The chapters have been published over the years in various places, but are now presented together.

RAMBI reminder

AWOL: Open Access Journal: RAMBI- The Index of Articles on Jewish Studies - רשימת מאמרים במדעי היהדות - רמב"י. I have noted RAMBI a few times already (see here, here, and here), but it is an extraordinarily useful bibliographical resource and it is worth mentioning again with AWOL.
RAMBI – The Index of Articles on Jewish Studies – was founded by Dr. Issachar Joel in 1966. It is a selective bibliography of academic articles covering all of the fields of Jewish studies as well as the study of Eretz Israel and the State of Israel.
RAMBI is based largely on the collections of the National Library. The articles listed in RAMBI are collected from thousands of journals, in print or electronic, from collections of articles and from offprints sent by researchers.
RAMBI refers to articles in Hebrew, Latin or Cyrillic letters. The database is updated on a daily basis. By the end of 2013 RAMBI included about 350,000 records, from about 21,000 different sources.
The English version of RAMBI is here.

Hurtado on Bockmuehl, Ancient Apocryphal Gospels

LARRY HURTADO: Apocryphal Gospels: New Book.
Markus Bockmuehl’s new book, Ancient Apocryphal Gospels (Westminster John Knox Press, 2017), is a very good introduction to the subject. The publisher’s online catalogue entry is here.

I noted the book back in January here.

What language(s) did the Philistines speak?

THE ASOR BLOG: What language(s) did the Philistines speak? (Dr. Brent Eric Davis). Spoiler: we just don't know, at least what their original language was.

Cross-file under Philology.