Saturday, May 27, 2017

Review of Budin (ed.), Women in Antiquity

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Stephanie Lynn Budin, Jean MacIntosh Turfa (ed.), Women in Antiquity: Real Women across the Ancient World. Rewriting antiquity. London; New York: Routledge, 2016. Pp. xxxvi, 1074. ISBN 9781138808362. $240.00. . Reviewed by Judith Lynn Sebesta, University of South Dakota. Many, many articles on women in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Carthage, Israel, etc.

Auroras and comets in Syriac

SYRIAC WATCH: Mining Ancient Texts Reveals Clues to Space Weather of Yore. Low-latitude sightings of colorful hues in the sky likely to have been auroras indicate powerful geomagnetic storms buffeted Earth when some old chronicles were written, researchers report (Tim Hornyak, Eos).
... Japanese researchers recently identified what may be the earliest known, datable sketch of an aurora and say it can shed light on solar activity more than 1000 years ago.

The crude marginalia were found in the Zūqnīn Chronicle, a history of events from Creation to the late 8th century that is preserved in the Vatican Apostolic Library. Composed in 775 and 776 CE, the manuscript is written in a dialect of Aramaic and attributed to a monk dubbed Joshua the Stylite, who lived in the monastery of Zūqnīn in what is now eastern Turkey. The manuscript yielded a total of 10 drawings of heavenly phenomena, including a sketch of horizontal bands from 771/772 CE. ...
The article says that the Zūqnīn Chronicle (which is written in Syriac) also mentions a comet (Halley's?). And that there are references to auroras in Babylonian cuneiform literature.

For another, later, Syriac reference to a comet, see here.

Mapping ancient Syriac lives and literature

SYRIAC WATCH: As Turmoil Displaces Middle Eastern Christians, Scholars Work to Preserve Syriac Culture (Mitch Teich, NPR News in Milwaukee). An excellent audio interview about Syriac literature with Dan Schwartz, Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent, and Nathan Gibson. They were attending Mapping Ancient Lives & Social Networks: A Digital Workshop at Marquette University last week.

The Apocalypse of Abraham

READING ACTS: Apocalypse of Abraham. This is a good summary of this mysterious text. One important point not mentioned is that our only sources for it are medieval and later manuscripts in Slavonic. There does seem to be a respectable case, though, that it is a relatively early and Jewish composition. But Slavonic material is outside my expertise.

Incidentally, it is possible that Richard Bauckham has located a reference to the Apocalypse of Abraham by a late-antique, Latin-writing author. See his "The Inquiry of Abraham" in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1 (ed. Bauckham, Davila, and Panayotov; Eerdmans, 2013), pp. 59-63.

Presumably, the Apocalypse of Abraham was originally written in Greek and was translated into Slavonic. But none of the Greek text survives.

UPDATE: Bad link now fixed!

Israel Numismatic Report

ASOR BLOG: Israel Numismatic Report: Important Finds, Altruistic Reporting, and the Law (David Hendin).
Readers of Israeli newspapers and archaeology blogs for the last few years have seen a notable uptick in the number of coin finds reported by “good Samaritans” (both Israelis and tourists) and turned into the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), as well as some newsworthy numismatic finds at licensed excavations.

This led The Ancient Near East Today to ask me to look into the finds and their importance, as well as other numismatic discoveries in or related to Israel. I recently returned from Israel, where I talked with numismatic scholars, officials of the Israel Antiquities Authority, licensed antiquity dealers, and collectors. Here is my report.

PaleoJudaica frequently notes articles on ancient coins and their importance for our understanding of ancient Judaism etc. This article collects information about recent coin discoveries in Israel. It also reviews the laws and procedures for buying ancient coins there and exporting them. Cross-file under Numismatics.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Nehemiah's wall again

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Nehemiah—The Man Behind the Wall (Dorothy Willette). This essay was first published some time ago and has just been republished. The republication says the original came out in 2012, but I had a link to it (now rotted) back in 2009. In any case, there's been interest (cf. here) in Nehemiah and his wall recently, so here it is again.

Ten years ago there were reports that remains of Nehemiah's wall have been discovered. But this was disputed. See the posts here, here, here, and here.

NT Apocrypha a century and more ago

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Alternative Scriptures: Beyond the New Testament (Philip Jenkins).
From the 1890s onward, such sources inspired academic debate about Gnosticism and other heresies, as scholars argued whether Gnosticism was an offshoot of Christianity or of Judaism, or an entirely independent religion. Or was it indeed a vestige of the authentic message of earliest Christianity, suppressed by the sinister machinations of the later Great Church?
Something like this conversation continues in 2017.
So for a curious lay person a century ago, what resources were available for the apocryphal and pseudepigraphic works that guided this Quest for the Alternative Jesus? Just from the English-language tradition, let me offer a partial list (I exclude scholarly editions in original languages):
It's a long list.

Past posts in Professor Jenkins's "alternative scriptures" series are noted here and links. Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

3 Baruch

READING ACTS: The Greek Apocalypse of Baruch (3 Baruch). A nice summary of the book and overview of the critical issues. For past posts in Phil Long's recently revived series on the OTP, see here and links.

"Law as Religion, Religion as Law" conference

H-JUDAIC: Conference on "Law as Religion, Religion as Law." On 5-7 June at the Institute for Research in Jewish Law at the Hebrew University. The papers include lots of ancient Judaism.

Veyne, Palmyra: An Irreplaceable Treasure

PALMYRA WATCH: Two reviews of a new book on Palmyra have been published in the last couple of days. The book is:
Palmyra: An Irreplaceable Treasure. By Paul Veyne; translated from the French by Teresa Lavender Fagan (University of Chicago Press; 128 pages; $22.50)
PETER LEWIS ‘Palmyra: An Irreplaceable Treasure,’ by Paul Veyne (San Francisco Chronicle).
But Palmyra has seen far worse than anything today’s militants have dished out, which, in essence, was a sad sacking of ruins. Roman Emperor Aurelian conquered Palmyra in 273, and after meticulous looting, razed the place. Those were years that Palmyra was a unique and gloried trading cosmopolis. It was the meeting ground of caravans from Rome and Greece and those from far Cathay and India, explains Paul Veyne in “Palmyra,” where he brightly “sketches a portrait of the past splendor of Palmyra,” in a story tightly bound with affection.
JONATHAN MIRSKY: The lovely ruins of Palmyra were destroyed out of spite. Isis’s horrendous spree there in 2015 was entirely to show contempt for a site revered by the West, says Paul Veyne (The Spectator).
In an icy fury, Paul Veyne, a French expert on Palmyra, has dedicated this comprehensive, passionate, but concise book to the memory of the murdered Syrian scholar [Khaled al-Asaad]. In it he relates thousands of years of Palmyra’s history, describing those who lived there and pausing only briefly to underline what monsters Isis were to smash the site.
For past PaleoJudaica posts on Palmyra, its history, the ancient Aramaic dialect spoken there (Palmyrene), and the city's tragic reversals of fortune, for now trending for the better, start here and follow the many, many links.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The archaeology of the fall of Jerusalem

FOR JERUSALEM DAY (YESTERDAY): Watch: Evidence of battle of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. On the occasion of the jubilee celebrations for J'lem's reunification, researchers are unveiling evidence of the last battle of Jerusalem (Arutz Sheva).
On the occasion of Jerusalem Day and the jubilee celebrations commemorating the reunification of the city, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Nature and Parks Authority are unveiling evidence from 2,000 year ago of the battle of Jerusalem on the eve of the destruction of the Second Temple, at the City of David in the Jerusalem Walls National Park.

With video. And the article has many details.

Canaanite Israelis?

REMNANT OF GIANTS BLOG: Canaanite Reconstructionism (Deane Galbraith). It seems there are Israeli neopagans who worship the Canaanite gods. I was not aware of that, although I did know that Canaanite religious traditions were being used in the performing arts in Israel.

Review of Stroumsa, The Scriptural Universe of Ancient Christianity

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | The Scriptural Universe of Ancient Christianity (Daniel Picus).
Stroumsa, Guy. The Scriptural Universe of Ancient Christianity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016.

The sheer volume of material contained in this slim volume is staggering. Guy Stroumsa leaps between Jewish, Christian, Manichaean, and other sources with ease, quoting texts in various languages. Initially trained as a scholar of Gnosticism, in this book Stroumsa reveals his current interest in the history of religion as both a contemporary phenomenon and a shifting paradigm within the ancient world itself. Not only has our own modern view of religion shifted dramatically, but ancient Jews and Christians, Stroumsa suggests, underwent a dramatic shift in their own understanding of their relation to the divine. ...
It sounds as though there is quite a lot in the book that is relevant to the study of ancient Judaism.

Back to the Old Testament pseudepigrapha

READING ACTS: Summer Series: (More) Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Phil Long is back from Israel and is set to return to his blog series on the Old Testament pseudepigrapha. He helpfully includes a list, with links, of all the previous posts in the series. I believe that PaleoJudaica has linked to all of them, sometimes with comments, as they came up.

Phil uses the phrase "(More) Old Testament Pseudepigrapha," but I'm not sure whether that means he will also be covering texts from Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1. The photo shows the book on his bookshelf with the Charlesworth volumes, so maybe. We'll see.

Past posts in Phil's OTP series have been noted here and links. But during the 2016-17 academic year he also covered a number of OTP in his series on Second Temple Judaism: Jubilees (here and links), the Psalms of Solomon (here), 3 Maccabees (here and links), and 4 Maccabees (here and links).

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Adin Steinsaltz receives Jerusalem medal

CONGRATULATIONS TO RABBI STEINSALTZ: Rabbi Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz) Honored With Jerusalem Award. Mayor pays a visit to the renowned rabbi, who continues to recover from a recent stroke ( The Jerusalem Post also has an article on the award: RECOVERING STEINSALTZ MADE 'YAKIR YERUSHALAYIM' DURING VISIT BY MAYOR.

I noted the report of his stroke back in December and I have been watching for news about his condition ever since. I am pleased to hear that he is recovering and that he was well enough to receive guests.

Rabbi Steinsaltz has been mentioned often in PaleoJudaica, mostly regarding his Hebrew and English translations of the Talmud. For more on that, follow the links in the preceding paragraph

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Conference on Temple Mount at Providence College

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Marking the Sacred: ​The Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem (Providence College, June 5-7, 2017) (International Catacomb Society).
An international conference bringing together experts on the history and archaeology of Jerusalem's Temple Mount/Haram, sacred to Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions. Exhibition of photographs from the École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem and contemporary artist, Assaf Evron.
Follow the link for the conference program. Looks like an impressive lineup.

Second-Temple-era pilgrimage pools in Jerusalem

ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE: Study: Jerusalem reservoirs used by pilgrims 2,000 years ago (Yori Yalon, Israel HaYom).
Gigantic ancient pools found in Old City -- more than in any other Mediterranean city -- provided water for masses making pilgrimage to the Temple, expert says • University of Haifa, Harvard University launched soon-to-be-published study.
The study is to be published in the Palestine Exploration Quarterly.

Temple Mount Sifting Project finds Six-Day-War artifacts

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: New Six Day War artifacts hint at a battle on the Temple Mount. Bullets, shell casings discovered in rubble and examined by the Temple Mount Sifting Project raise questions about fight for Judaism’s holiest site during the 1967 war (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
Among the half a million artifacts discovered during the sifting are dozens of articles — among them machine gun magazines, bullets, Jordanian coins, and uniform badges, which, the project claims, “may be related to the IDF’s arrival at the Temple Mount during the Six Day War.”

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount Sifting Project is presenting a temporary display of some of the findings connected to the Six Day War, ancient ammunition, as well as some of the reconstructed floor patterns from Herod’s Temple courts, in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter’s central square (near the Moriah jewelry store).
Past PaleoJudaica posts about the Temple Mount Sifting Project are here, here, here, and here, and follow the many, many links. They have made a lot of announcements lately, not least because they are trying to secure funding to continue.

Past posts on the floor tiles mentioned in the excerpt above are here and here and links. Usually I link to the Project's news about ancient artifacts, but the current announcement is timely.

No director yet for Israel Museum

STILL CHANGING: Trump brings spotlight to Israel Museum mired in hunt for leader. For more than a year, institution unable to fill shoes of longtime director James Snyder, who oversaw ‘a huge revolution.’ I noted the announcement of the appointment of Eran Neuman as director back in January, but he departed after only three months and the position has not yet been filled.

You can read the full text of President Trump's address yesterday at the Israel Museum here. It includes condolences to the people of Manchester regarding Monday's vile terrorist attack.

Methuselah is twelve

MASADA DATE PALM UPDATE: KETURA, ISRAEL: Judean Date Palm Methuselah. This tree was extinct for a thousand years before sprouting again from a 2,000-year-old seed (Atlas Obscura).
One soon sprouted into a sapling. Twelve years later, it is more than 10 feet tall. A male of its species, it was nicknamed Methuselah after the longest-lived person in the Bible. It is the oldest known germination of a seed in the world.

At first, the leaves were plagued with white blotches, suggesting insufficient nutrients, but eventually the plant thrived. It first flowered in 2011 and it produces pollen, which enables it to reproduce with modern date palms, as it did in 2015. It is predicted it will generate fruit by 2022.
I hope so.

Background here and here and links. I noted the story originally, back in 2005, here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Review of Stuckenbruck, The Myth of the Rebellious Angels

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: The Scope and Shape of the Watchers Myth in Antiquity (Daniel Machiela). Review of Loren T. Stuckenbruck, The Myth of the Rebellious Angels: Studies in Second Temple Judaism and New Testament Texts. WUNT 335. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014.
In this volume of collected articles—most of them published previously in a variety of scholarly venues, though updated here—Loren Stuckenbruck of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, takes the reader on a detailed exploration of the birth and early history of this legend as attested in ancient Judaism and earliest Christianity. There are few, if any, as capable of guiding this tour, and though these individual studies were not originally intended to be read as part of a comprehensive account, readers of this book will come away with a rich understanding of the myth of the fallen, rebellious angels and their offspring as understood in ancient Judaism and Christianity. They will also gain an appreciation of the breadth and scholarly acumen of Stuckenbruck’s work on this topic, which is truly remarkable. In this review, I aim to introduce readers to texts and traditions associated with the myth of the rebellious angels, touching on current scholarly discussions around them.
The publication of the book was noted here, paperback here. A related, more recent book co-edited by Professor Stuckenbruck was noted here. Earlier essays in the AJR series on the Dead Sea Scrolls (in honor of the 70th anniversary of their discovery) are noted here and links.

The Talmud and time travel

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Talmud’s Hot Tub Time Machine. How Moses could know how his people’s story would end before it was even written is in keeping with the spirit of ‘Daf Yomi.’
What the Gemara does not point out, but struck me as remarkable, is that the Torah portion that lays out the rule for levirate marriage comes in Deuteronomy, while the story of Zelophehad’s daughters is in Numbers, which of course precedes Deuteronomy in the Five Books of Moses. In other words, the rabbis envision Moses possessing a complete Torah while the events the Torah recounts are still taking place. While he is wandering the wilderness, in Numbers, he can consult the law code he will not actually deliver to the Israelites until years later, in Deuteronomy.
Okay, but what's with the hot tub? I thought you needed a flux capacitor.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Trump visits Western Wall

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Trump makes historic visit to Western Wall (Jeremy Diamond, CNN).
Jerusalem (CNN)President Donald Trump on Monday became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism.

On a related note, Haaretz rules on a technicality: Give Ivanka Trump a Break, She Didn’t Get the Western Wall Wrong. Twitter erupted after the first daughter described Jerusalem’s Kotel as the holiest site in Judaism; as part of the Temple Mount, that’s exactly what it is (David B. Green). Technically, the Kotel is usually called "one of the holiest sites" in Judaism, but yes, it is also part of the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site. It's interesting to note that the CNN video above also refers to Trump honoring "the holiest site in the world for Judaism, for Jews." It also refers to "Judaism's most holy site."

Review of "Salome"

THEATRE? Review: Salome. Yael Ferber's new play Salome is unforgettable, but it's not theatre, says John Nathan (The Jewish Chronicle). Two stars.
Clearly, Farber decided to reject period drama as a way of telling the story. The result feels utterly authentic but fatally ponderous. The language of the script — a mix of English, Aramaic and Arabic — demands to be intoned rather than performed.


Yet calling it theatre doesn’t seem quite right. Perhaps it would work better as an installation. But whatever it is, it’s unforgettable.
Notices of earlier reviews of Farber's production of Salome (Salomé) and related matters are collected here.

Monday, May 22, 2017

More on London's Dead Sea Scrolls

EPIGRAPY: HOW TO DECODE AN ANCIENT ROMAN’S HANDWRITING. Roger Tomlin has made a career studying bar bills, curse tablets, and other British relics that were never meant for posterity (Charlotte Higgins, The New Yorker). HT AJR.

This is an interview with the man who deciphered and has now published those wooden tablets inscribed in Latin which were found in London some years ago. The tablets have no direct bearing on ancient Judaism, but I have discussed some indirect points of comparison etc. here. This article confirms that all the London tablets are documentary and administrative rather literary texts. The process of their decipherment is fascinating and pertinent for understanding all sorts of epigraphic discoveries.

The article includes the story of the "decipherment" by Edward Nicholson of an ancient Scottish inscription engraved on lead in Latin.
There the matter rested for ninety years, until Tomlin decided to take another look at Nicholson’s photographs. As he studied them (the original artifact had, alas, disappeared), he found that Nicholson had made one disastrous error: he had read the entire inscription upside down.
Every epigrapher's nightmare.

Review of Bortolani, Magical Hymns from Roman Egypt

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Ljuba Merlina Bortolani, Magical Hymns from Roman Egypt: A Study of Greek and Egyptian Traditions of Divinity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Pp. xxi, 467. ISBN 9781107108387. $130.00.. Reviewed by Thomas Galoppin, LabEx HASTEC – LEM, Paris.
This interdisciplinary study provides a useful new edition of several of the hymns found in the Greek magical papyri (henceforth PGM), along with an analysis of their content and cultural background. L. M. Bortolani gives an overview of the cultural backgrounds, largely Egyptian and Greek, of 15 hymns edited from the metric sections found within the Greek text of the ritual procedures contained in the PGM.

Another recent book on the Greek Magical Papyri was noted here.

Sidnie White Crawford on that other Bible

BIBLE ODYSSEY: The "Other" Bible from Qumran (Sidnie White Crawford). Here we hear more about those alternative scriptures, including 1 Enoch, Jubilees, and Ben Sira, but in the context of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Christian Apocrypha at ISBL 2017

APOCRYPHICITY: Christian Apocrypha at the 2017 SBL International Meeting (Tony Burke). The meeting takes place in Berlin in August.

Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch and Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

DeConick interviewed

APRIL DECONICK: Rorotoko Interview. Professor DeConick is interviewed about her book, The Gnostic New Age. My SBL review of the book is here.

Cohen, For Out of Babylonia Shall Come Torah and the Word of the Lord from Nehar Peqod

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL: For Out of Babylonia Shall Come Torah and the Word of the Lord from Nehar Peqod. The Quest for Babylonian Tannaitic Traditions. Dr. Barak S. Cohen, Bar Ilan University.
In For Out of Babylonia Shall Come Torah and the Word of the Lord from Nehar Peqod, Barak S. Cohen reevaluates the evidence in Tannaitic and Amoraic literature of an independent “Babylonian Mishnah” which originated in the proto-talmudic period. The book focuses on an analysis of the most notable halakhic corpora that have been identified by scholars as originating in the Tannaitic period or at the outset of the amoraic. If indeed such an early corpus did exist, what are its characteristics and what, if any, connection does it have with the parallel Palestinian collections? Was this Babylonian Mishnah created in order to harmonize the Palestinian Mishnah with a corpus of rabbinic teachings already existent in Babylonia?
Was this corpus one of the main contributors to the forced interpretations and resolutions found so frequently in the Bavli?

Kratz et al., Hebräisches und aramäisches Wörterbuch zu den Texten vom Toten Meer, vol. 1

NEW BOOK FROM DE GRUYTER: Hebräisches und aramäisches Wörterbuch zu den Texten vom Toten MeerBand 1: Aleph – Beth. Reinhard Gregor Kratz, Annette Steudel, and Ingo Kottsieper. 2017.
The manuscripts from Qumran and other sites offer unique insight into the Hebrew and Aramaic languages during the period of the Second Temple. For the first time, in the tradition of classical lexicology, this philological dictionary develops a non-Biblical lexicon from these sources (plus the Dead Sea scrolls and Cairo Geniza manuscripts), while also placing it in the context of the history of the Hebraic and Aramaic languages.
This German volume covers words beginning with the first two letters of the (Hebrew and Aramaic) alphabet. That's a good start!

Review of John, Der Galaterbrief im Kontext

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Felix John, Der Galaterbrief im Kontext historischer Lebenswelten im antiken Kleinasien. Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments, 264. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016. Pp. 259. ISBN 9783525540503. €70.00. Reviewed by Søren Lund Sørensen, Freie Universität Berlin.

This book on Paul's Letter to the Galatians in the New Testament is reviewed in BMCR because it contains much of interest to a "classical readership." But the review also indicates that the book has relevance for the study of ancient Judaism.

Hurtado on the "thorny crown"

LARRY HURTADO: The “Thorny Crown.” Was the idea of the "thorny crown" placed on the head of Jesus according to the Gospels meant as a jeering representation an imperial "radiate" (spikey) crown?"

That idea might provide a better explanation of numismatic evidence pointed to in this story. If so, the thorny crown referred to in the Gospels was a satirical reference to the crown some rulers are shown wearing on ancient coins. That doesn't mean that any of the people depicted in those coins were Jesus.