Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The oldest nunnery in Israel?

ARCHAEOLOGY AND TRADITION: Earliest Convent in Israel Found at Grave Site of Samuel's Mother Hannah Monasteries abound in ancient Israel, but the 1,600-year-old nunnery and women's graveyard built where the miraculously impregnated Hannah, mother of Samuel, is believed to lie are unique (Miriam Feinberg Vamosh, Haaretz premium).
At the top of a silent, pathless crest in central Israel lies Horvat Hani, where archaeologists have identified the ruins of the first convent ever discovered in ancient Israel, and a burial ground exclusively for women and girls. That cemetery would remain in use for over a thousand years, plied by both Christian and Muslim women in the region.

The ruins at Horvat Hani may go back as much as 1,700 years, to the days of early Christianity in the Holy Land. The nunnery and cemetery were built on what the faithful believed to be the grave of Hannah, who the bible says became mother of Samuel by divine intervention.

[...]
The case for the site being a nunnery founded in the fifth century looks persuasive, if perhaps not conclusive. The case for the third-century church having a connection with a traditional site of the grave of Hannah sounds more speculative. But it isn't presented in detail in this article. And any connection with the actual burial site of the biblical Hannah, if there was such a person, is very speculative and would be very hard to prove.

To read this article, you need a free registration with Haaretz.

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Does the body or the soul cause sin?

FOR YOM KIPPUR: Body or Soul: Which is Responsible for Committing Sins? (Prof. Ophir Münz-Manor, TheGemara.com).
To illustrate the body and soul’s responsibility for sin, an early midrash presents the parable of the blind and lame watchmen. Curiously, this parable later shows up in Piyyut and in a Christian text. What might this teach us about the spread of rabbinic texts and ideas in late antiquity?
Incidentally, Epiphanius is quoting from the (now lost) Apocryphon of Ezekiel, so cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Bucur, Scripture Re-envisioned

FORTHCOMING BOOK FROM BRILL:
Scripture Re-envisioned: Christophanic Exegesis and the Making of a Christian Bible

Series:
The Bible in Ancient Christianity, Volume: 13

Author: Bogdan G. Bucur

Scripture Re-envisioned discusses the christological exegesis of biblical theophanies and argues its crucial importance for the appropriation of the Hebrew Bible as the Christian Old Testament. The Emmaus episode in Luke 24 and its history of interpretation serve as the methodological and hermeneutical prolegomenon to the early Christian exegesis of theophanies. Subsequent chapters discuss the reception history of Genesis 18; Exodus 3 and 33; Psalm 98/99 and 131/132; Isaiah 6; Habakkuk 3:2 (LXX); Daniel 3 and 7. Bucur shows that the earliest, most widespread and enduring reading of these biblical texts, namely their interpretation as "christophanies"— manifestations of the Logos-to-be-incarnate—constitutes a robust and versatile exegetical tradition, which lent itself to doctrinal reflection, apologetics, polemics, liturgical anamnesis and doxology

Publication Date: 25 October 2018
ISBN: 978-90-04-38610-5

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The Tel Dan Inscription

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY; The Tel Dan Inscription: The First Historical Evidence of King David from the Bible. Tel Dan inscription references the “House of David.” A good, quick over of the state of the question concerning this important inscription.

For some past PaleoJudaica posts on the Tel Dan Stele, see here and links (cf. here). Cross-file under Northwest Semitic Epigraphy.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Yom Kippur 2018

YOM KIPPUR, the Day of Atonement, begins this evening at sundown. An easy fast to all those observing it.

Last year's post on Yom Kippur is here. For background and previous posts, follow the link from there. Posts on Yom Kippur in the last year are here, here, and here.

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On the Mesha Stele

NORTHWEST SEMITIC EPIGRAPHY: When God Wasn't So Great: What Yahweh’s First Appearance Tells About Early Judaism. The oldest extra-biblical reference to Yahweh is in a 3,000-year-old Moabite stele, which boasts of defeating Israel, may mention King David – and paints a very different picture of God than the one we know (Ariel David, Haaretz premium).
While the events narrated in the two texts appear quite different, one of the most surprising aspects of Mesha’s inscription is how much it reads like a biblical chapter in style and language, scholars say.

Mesha explains that the Israelite king Omri succeeded in conquering Moab only because “Chemosh was angry with his land” – a trope that finds many parallels in the Bible, where the Israelites’ misfortunes are invariably attributed to the wrath of God. It is again Chemosh who decides to restore Moab to its people and speaks directly to Mesha, telling him “Go take Nebo from Israel,” just as God routinely speaks to Israelite prophets and leaders in the Bible. And in conquering Nebo, Mesha recounts how he massacred the entire population as an act of dedication (“cherem” in the original) to his gods – the exact same word and brutal practice used in the Bible to seal the fate of Israel’s bitterest enemies (for example the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15:3).

Although there are only a handful Moabite inscriptions out there, scholars had no trouble translating the stele because the language is so similar to ancient Hebrew.
The story of the discovery of the Mesha Stele/Moabite Stone would make a fair Indiana Jones movie. This article has good coverage of that story and of the historical importance of the inscription.

By the way — cross-filed under Cosmic Synchronicity — isn't it cool that the name of the author of this article is the same as a particularly mysterious phrase in the Mesha Stele?

Again, you need a free registration with Haaretz to read this article. For past PaleoJudaica posts on the Mesha Stele, start here and follow the links.

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The Talmud on Torah calligraphy

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Finding Meaning in Calligraphy. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, why even the crowns of Hebrew letters matter. Plus: The biblical Moses is relegated to the eighth row of a rabbi’s class, for not understanding the lesson.
The Gemara goes on to give the most detailed rules for writing a Torah scroll that the Talmud has offered so far. When writing a Torah verse for a mezuzah, we learn, each letter must be perfectly formed. “Even the absence of the thorn of a yod” disqualifies the text. In addition, each letter must be separated from the next: “Any letter that is not encircled with blank parchment on all four of its sides is unfit.” And “seven letters require three crowns”: there are seven letters of the Hebrew alphabet that must be written with ornamental strokes or “crowns” on top.
And there are some good stories in this week's readings.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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LaCoste, Waters of the Exodus

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Waters of the Exodus
Jewish Experiences with Water in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt


Series:
Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, Volume: 190

Author: Nathalie LaCoste

In Waters of the Exodus, Nathalie LaCoste examines the Diasporic Jewish community in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt and their relationship to the hydric environment. By focusing on four retellings of the exodus narrative composed by Egyptian Jews—Artapanus, Ezekiel the Tragedian, Wisdom of Solomon, and Philo of Alexandria—she lays out how the hydric environment of Egypt, and specifically the Nile river, shaped the transmission of the exodus story. Mapping these observations onto the physical landscape of Egypt provides a new perspective on the formation of Jewish communities in Egypt.

Publication Date: 24 October 2018
ISBN: 978-90-04-38431-6
The e-book version is already out. This work was featured on AJR a couple of years ago when it was a doctoral dissertation.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

The three locks on the Zohar

ZOHAR WATCH: Exposing the Zohar's Secrets: First-ever English Translation Unlocks the Gates to Jewish Mysticism. The first-ever complete translation of the seminal work of Jewish mysticism grants access to English readers who were heretofore unable to grasp the brilliant stories rendered in its original Aramaic and medieval Hebrew versions (Omri Shasha, Haaretz). Excerpts:
The Zohar is the crowning peak of Jewish mysticism, and is in many senses the cornerstone of kabbala – the place from which it emanates and to which it returns. The depth of its conceptual, psychological and religious ideas, which arise from its splendid homilies and from its dynamic stories, have made the Zohar one of the pillars of Jewish culture for hundreds of years. The Zohar entered the Jewish canon alongside the Talmud and the books of the Bible (in fact, more manuscripts of the Zohar have come down to us than of the Talmud, which indicates its circulation and centrality in the pre-print age). But for the contemporary reader, hundreds of years after the coalescence of the Zohar literature, the tension between revealed and concealed has been determined; regretfully, this canonical composition is sealed with secrecy for the average reader by three “locks.”

[...]

Herein lies the great marvel of the latest edition of the Zohar, whose 15-year process of publication has now been completed by Stanford University Press under the title “The Zohar: Pritzker Edition” (referring to the family that funded the project). Its 12 volumes constitute a monumental enterprise that sets out to cope with the three hurdles mentioned above, which separate the contemporary reader from the Zohar. Over two decades of painstaking labor, Prof. Daniel Matt, who headed the project, translated the Zohar, line by line, into English. He has also provided continuous, accessible annotation of the Zohar’s symbolism and homiletics, and refers the interested reader to additional commentaries, Zohar parallels, ancient sources in the rabbinic and kabbalistic literature, and in some cases to the research literature as well. (Three of the volumes, which contain discrete Zoharic texts, were translated and annotated by Joel Hecker and Nathan Wolski.)
This is a long and very informative article on the new Zohar translation, perhaps the most informative one I have seen. But it is also quite accessible to nonspecialists.

This is also a Haaretz premium article. You can access six of these for free per month with a free registration. My experience is that the registration isn't particularly easy to use and seems to malfunction a lot. But that may be me rather than Haaretz.

If you are interested in the Zohar and the new Matt translation, this article is worth a registration and a read.

There are many, many PaleoJudaica posts on the Zohar. Start here and just follow those links. Many of those have to do with the Matt translation, whose progress PaleoJudaica has been following since 2003.

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Biblical songs and music videos

REDACTION CRITICISM: Moses Wrote Down this Song, Deuteronomy 31:22 – Which Song? (Dr. Rabbi Tzemah Yoreh, TheTorah.com).
It seems obvious that the song referred to in God’s speech in Deuteronomy 31 is Ha’azinu, though some verses in this chapter imply that it might be the Torah itself. A redaction critical look at God’s speech suggests that neither of these was the original referent.
On the one hand, I tend to be skeptical of redaction-critical reconstructions, since they generally involve a good bit of circular reasoning. Sometimes they are persuasive, but more often they just seem possible – at least to me.

On the other hand, most of the songs in the Pentateuch and the Deuteronomistic History do seem to me to have been written earlier than their prose contexts and not necessarily for the purpose given in those contexts.

I like to think of the prose context of a biblical song as the music video that goes with the song. Often the video gives the song a new frame and imposes a meaning quite different from what seems to be intended in the song itself. Likewise with the prose framings of the biblical songs.

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Retrospective from a Sifting Project staff member

THE TEMPLE MOUNT SIFTING PROJECT BLOG: Goodbye Jenn! Jennifer Green reminisces about her experiences working on the Sifting Project:
To all of our supporters and follower and lovers of archaeology,

There comes a time in every person’s career where they have to take a new opportunity even if it means leaving a place and people that they love. Unfortunately for me, that day is today and it is with deepest melancholy that I have to say farewell.

I have been blessed to have spent the last 2 ½ years with the Temple Mount Sifting Project. You may not know me, but I am the person behind most of our blog posts, newsletters, and social media, with a little grant writing, donor relations, video editing, and research added in for good measure. I also led many of the tours in English at the site in Emek Tzurim.

I cannot express in words how fantastic this project is, the importance of the research being done here, or the truly amazing people who work here. Instead, I thought I would share some of my favorite memories from the past few years as an insight into the people and the project that I love. So in no particular order: ...
For many, many PaleoJudaica posts on the Temple Mount Sifting Project, start here and follow the links.

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PhiloLogic

THE AWOL BLOG: Welcome to Perseus under PhiloLogic, 2018. Perseus Project Texts Loaded under PhiloLogic. Final season for PhiloLogic 3, Summer 2018. A search engine for Classical Greek and Latin texts. It includes material mostly from the Perseus database, but also from elsewhere. Looks useful.

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Brown (ed.), The Interactions of Ancient Astral Science

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Zoroastrian and Ancient Iranian Astral Science. Notice of a new book: Brown, David. 2018. The Interactions of Ancient Astral Science. with contributions by : Jonathon Ben-Dov, Harry Falk, Geoffrey Lloyd, Raymond Mercier, Antonio Panaino, Joachim Quack, Alexandra von Lieven, and Michio Yano. Bremen: Hempen Verlag.

As the book's title indicates (and the blurb at the link explains), this book is about ancient astral science worldwide, including, for example, the West Semitic world. The TOC indicates that there is detailed treatment of relevant material from the Qumran library.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Satlow, Judaism and the Economy

NEW BOOK FROM ROUTLEDGE:
Judaism and the Economy
A Sourcebook


Edited by Michael L. Satlow
Routledge
212 pages

Description
Judaism and the Economy is an edited collection of sixty-nine Jewish texts relating to economic issues such as wealth, poverty, inequality, charity, and the charging of interest. The passages cover the period from antiquity to the present, and represent many different genres. Primarily fresh translations, from their original languages, many appear here in English for the first time. Each is prefaced by an introduction and the volume as a whole is introduced by a synthetic essay.

These texts, read together and in different combinations, provide a new lens for thinking about the economy and make the case that religion and religious values have a place in our own economic thinking. Judaism and the Economy is a useful new resource for educators, students, and clergy alike.
This book contains much of interest for the study of ancient Judaism. Announced by Professor Satlow on his blog here.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

The archaeology of the riot at Ephesus

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Biblical Riot at Ephesus: The Archaeological Context.
According to Acts, the riot would have occurred at the end of the missionary visit of Paul at Ephesus (around 55 or 56 C.E.). How accurate is Luke’s description of Ephesus at this time? In “Archaeology Gives New Reality to Paul’s Ephesus Riot” in the July/August 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, James R. Edwards, the Bruner-Welch Professor Emeritus of Theology at Whitworth University, describes how archaeological evidence fills in the historical context for Luke’s account of the riot at Ephesus.
As usual, the BAR article itself is behind the subscription wall. But this essay gives you a taste of it.

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IAA Library catalogue online

THE AWOL BLOG: Israel Antiquities Authority Library Catalog Online.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Review of Reading and Teaching Ancient Fiction, ed. Johnson, Dupertuis, and Shea

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Sara Raup Johnson, Rubén R.​ Dupertuis, Christine Shea (ed.), Reading and Teaching Ancient Fiction: Jewish, Christian, and Greco-Roman Narratives. Writings from the Greco-Roman World Supplements, 11. Atlanta, GA: SBL Press, 2018. Pp. xv, 320. ISBN 9781628371963. $55.95 (hb); $40.95 (pb). Reviewed by Laura Quick, Princeton University (lquick@princeton.edu).
This book is the third volume of research derived from papers presented in the Ancient Fiction and Early Christian and Jewish Narrative section of the Society of Biblical Literature.1 As well as providing insights into the latest scholarly developments in ancient Mediterranean narrative including both classical authors as well as canonical and noncanonical Jewish and Christian texts, the volume also explores the use of ancient texts to encourage students to examine their assumptions about gender and sexuality, or to view familiar texts from a new perspective. As such, several of the contributions are explicitly pedagogical in orientation.

[...]

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

REVIEWS OF THE ENOCH SEMINAR:
Rebecca Denova Reviews Enoch and the Synoptic Gospels (Stuckenbruck & Boccaccini)

Reviews of the Enoch Seminar 2018.09.08

Loren T. Stuckenbruck and Gabriele Boccaccini, eds. Enoch and the Synoptic Gospels: Reminiscences, Allusions, Intertextuality. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016. ISBN: 9780884141198. Pp. 447. $82.95. Hardcover.

Rebecca Denova
University of Pittsburgh
Excerpt:
Organized Seminars for the purpose of sharing ideas have resulted in the publication of several books as well as an official journal, Henoch. The present volume is the result of the Seventh Enoch Seminar (Camaldoli, Italy, July 2013), edited by Loren T. Stuckenbruck and Gabriele Boccaccini. The chapters focus on similarities and differences between the Enoch literature and the Synoptics: visionary experiences, birth narratives, the portrait and function of heavenly beings, parables, “son of man,” the experience of transformation, the role of wisdom and priestly functions, demonology, and the worship of the revealer (Enoch and Jesus).
I was at the Seventh Enoch Seminar and posted on it here and here. I gave a seminar in it, but I did not publish a paper in this volume. I noted the book as forthcoming here.

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The Aramaic DSS

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls. What are they and why do they matter? (Marek Dospěl).
Since Hebrew was the language of Israelite tradition, scripture, and culture, some may be surprised to hear that many of the Dead Sea Scrolls are in Aramaic, the common language of Jesus’s time. In his article “The Lost World of the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls” in the September/October 2018 issue of BAR, Andrew B. Perrin of Trinity Western University in Langley, Canada, takes a close look at these Qumran Aramaic texts.
The BAR article is behind the subscription wall, but this BHD essay gives you a taste of it.

Some past PaleoJudaica posts on the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls are here, here, here, here, here, here (with many links to an AJR series), here (one more in that series), and here.

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Hartog, Schofield, Thomas (eds.), The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Study of the Humanities

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Study of the Humanities
Method, Theory, Meaning: Proceedings of the Eighth Meeting of the International Organization for Qumran Studies (Munich, 4–7 August, 2013)


Series:
Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah Online
Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah, Volume: 125

Editors: Pieter B. Hartog, Alison Schofield and Samuel I. Thomas
The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Study of the Humanities explores the use of methods, theories, and approaches from the humanities in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The volume contains ten essays on topics ranging from New Philology and socio-linguistics to post-colonial thinking and theories of myth.

Publication Date: 21 August 2018
ISBN: 978-90-04-37616-8

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Friday, September 14, 2018

How to spot cuneiform forgeries

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: How to Spot Fake Cuneiform Tablets (Sara Brumfield).
Because cuneiform tablets can be relatively easy to make but relatively difficult to detect, there is a clear incentive for forgers to continue producing large quantities. The effects of this long tradition of forgery are already deeply rooted. Fake tablets have found their way into nearly every major collection and many small, private collections around the world.
I am surprised to hear this. My impression has always been that it was quite difficult to make convincing forgeries of cuneiform tablets. Indeed, the ASOR Policy on Professional Conduct makes an exception regarding the publishing of unprovenanced cuneiform inscriptions, in part because "cuneiform texts may be authenticated more readily than other categories of epigraphic archaeological heritage" (section E5b)

It is, of course, easy to make clay tablets that vaguely resemble cuneiform tablets and which have nonsense fake cuneiform writing on them, but these would not fool a specialist. It requires years of expensive specialized training to be able to read cuneiform tablets, let alone fake them convincingly. But apparently there are enough trained people ready to forge them that this is problem in the field. This is disquieting.

In this article, Dr. Brumfield gives even nonspecialists some tools for spotting fake cuneiform tablets. So cross-file under News You Can Use.

I hope forgers will not read her article, but I fear they may.

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William Ross has good news

CONGRATULATIONS TO WILLIAM A. ROSS, WHO HAS JUST SUBMITTED HIS PH.D. THESIS: PERSONAL UPDATE. The thesis title is “Septuagint Lexicography and Language Change in Greek Judges.”

My regular readers will recognize William as the publisher of the Septuaginta &C. Blog. He has posted may interviews with Septuagint Scholars. (See here and links.) He promises another soon. He also coedited a soon-to-be published book, Septuaginta: A Reader's Edition, which looks very useful indeed. He has published an introductory essay on it here.

William also gives us the excellent news that in January he will begin a job as Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina.

We look forward to continuing to follow his work and his blog.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Review of Nongbri, God's Library

THE TEXTUAL MECHANIC BLOG: Review: "God's Library," by Brent Nongbri. Timothy N. Mitchell publishes the first (that I know of) review of this new book. Excerpt:
Finally, much of the skepticism and warnings of overconfidence in dating ancient manuscripts is appropriate and warranted. Nongbri does well at highlighting issues with assigning the date of a manuscript solely on palaeography. He gives several examples from the past century of scholars attributing dates to manuscripts with little or no support from securely dated writing samples or instances of the same manuscripts being assigned widely differing dates. Christian apologists, theologians of every stripe, and historians of early Christianity should heed Nongbri’s warnings and apply an extra dose of caution and transparency when drawing conclusions or basing arguments on these early Christian books.
Brent Nongbri replies here.

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The placement of Susannah in Daniel

THE ETC BLOG: Africanus–Origen Correspondence and the Form of Greek Daniel (John Meade). Some interesting speculation about the early placement of the apocryphal story of Susannah in the Book of Daniel.

Cross-file under Old Testament Apocrypha Watch and Septuagint Watch.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Satlow reviews Baker, Jew

MICHAEL SATLOW: Review of “Jew,” by Cynthia Baker.
There is a simple and powerful idea at the core of Baker’s argument. For some two millennia, the way in which we – whether Jewish or not – use and understand the word Jew (which Baker almost always writes in italics in order that it remain “provocative” (p. xiii)) those words in other languages that Baker identifies as its cognates (e.g., Jude, juif, guideo, Zsidó, yid, yehudi) has been and continues to be overwhelmingly shaped by Christians discourse. While prior to the first century CE the Hebrew term yehudi and Greek term ioudaios were used rarely and with an ambiguous meaning, from Paul forward Christian writers would use the term Jew – not Israel or Hebrews – as a signifier for the Other, often with evil or demonic overtones. ...
Past PaleoJudaica posts on the book are here and links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Halakhah in heaven?

MOSAIC MAGAZINE: What Happens in Heaven? Study. Of What? Jewish Law. “In heaven there will be no law,” an American legal giant once wrote. For Jews, it’s exactly the opposite (Chaim N. Saiman). Adapted from Halakhah: The Rabbinic Idea of Law by Chaim N. Saiman. Princeton University Press, 2018. Excerpt:
The rabbis of the Talmud also frequently describe heaven through the image of God’s throne, an emblem of His sovereignty over all created things. But, in one particular text, the Talmud presents a picture of heaven quite unlike anything in the Bible, an image that is indeed unthinkable, if not blasphemous, outside of its uniquely rabbinic context. It opens as follows (Bava Metzia 86a):
They were arguing in the Academy of Heaven.
Sit with these words for a moment. First, focus on the noun “academy.” In this talmudic passage, heaven is not a place of angels, halos, lyres, pearly gates, or fluffy clouds, or of chariots, smoke, lightning, or thunder. The essence of heaven is an academy—a yeshiva—a place of Torah study.
Remember, you can access only three free articles per month from Mosaic. This is the second one I have linked to in September.

Cross-file under New Book.

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Erich Gruen retrospective

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: A Wandering Jew: Some Reflections (Erich Gruen). Excerpt:
Where were the Jews in all this? Nowhere to be found. I had visited Israel a couple of times and lectured on classical subjects (no one would have invited me for any other reason). Ancient Jews had not previously been on my research horizon. Then came the next and biggest shift. I plunged into the history of the Jews in the Greco-Roman era. Why the sudden switch? My friends and colleagues, of course, drew what seemed the obvious conclusion: I was going back to my roots. The wandering Jew had come home. I was, after all, the child of holocaust survivors from Vienna. It seemed perfectly logical that, after a brief detour, I returned to my authentic identity and pursued the path long marked out and only temporarily postponed. A “brief detour”? Of more than a quarter century? Not likely. The shift was a logical one all right. But not for that reason.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

The Gospel of John

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Gospel of John Commentary: Who Wrote the Gospel of John and How Historical Is It? A look at some of the questions surrounding the Bible’s most enigmatic gospel.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Helen Bond is Head of Divinity at Edinburgh

CONGRATULATIONS TO PROFESSOR BOND AND TO NEW COLLEGE: ‘The best people to study religion can be those not of any set faith’ (Jody Harrison, The Herald).
IT was set up to be a bastion of Presbyterian tradition and for more than 400 years it has been a male-only preserve.

But now, for the first time, a woman has taken up the post of Head of the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, ending centuries of only male posteriors occupying the chair at the top of the table.

Professor Helen Bond said she hopes to bring a fresh outlook to the role and to inspire others to take a look at a subject some may regard as dusty and dry.

A historian, published author, and scholar of the early life of Jesus, the professor was previously a lecturer at the school and will fill the top job for the next five years.

[...]
Many past PaleoJudaica posts involve Helen Bond. Some of them are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

The Sparta-Israel Conference

WHAT HAS SPARTA TO DO WITH JERUSALEM? JEWS AND GREEKS EXPLORE LONG, DEEP RELATIONSHIP. A conference in Sparta that looked at the rich history between the two peoples (VETTE J. DEANE, Jerusalem Post).
The Present: The conference

A friendship was renewed in the heat of early September between the Byzantine ruins at Mount Taygetos and Ancient Sparta.
“Sparta-Israel Conference: Renewing an Ancient Friendship” was attended by members of B’nai B’rith’s “Philon” lodge of Athens, B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, the Municipality of Sparta and the Greek-Israeli Cooperation Institute. The main objectives of the September 4-6 conference were analyzing “historical and cultural aspects of the ancient friendship between the Spartan kings and the high priests of Israel” and “promoting future cooperation between Greece and Israel on development, tourism and cultural issues.”

[...]
But the conference also covered ancient history:
The Past: The letters

A far more ancient dispute arose during the conference – the letters from First and Second Maccabees, non-canonical Jewish books written in the Hasmonean period. This correspondence between Jews and Sparta was used as the inspiration for the conference in the hope of creating a narrative that can serve as a basis for future Israeli and Greek cooperation. However, the letters’ authenticity was and still is disputed.

[...]
The correspondence in question is in 1 Maccabees 12, not 2 Maccabees. You can read it at the link. Really, how hard would it have been to check that and give a correct reference?

I'm pretty sure the only reference to Sparta ("The Lacedaemonians") in 2 Maccabees is in 5:9, also mentioned in the article.

I don't have a view either way on the question of the authenticity of the letters. But at minimum the letters, even if they aren't authentic, show concern for Greek-Jewish relations in the Hellenistic period.

Cross-file under Old Testament Apocrypha Watch.

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Review of Stern, Writing on the Wall

BOOK REVIEW: What It Was Like to Be a Jew in the Roman Empire. Jewish graffiti from synagogues, tombs, theaters, and public spaces build up a picture of what it was like to be a Jew in the Roman empire (Candida Moss, The Daily Beast).
A new book by Brooklyn College of CUNY professor Karen Stern seeks to change all that. In Writing on the Wall: Graffiti and the Forgotten Jews of Antiquity, she gives us a glimpse into the lives of the ancient Jews forgotten by historians but who left their mark on their environment. She draws together the evidence for Jewish graffiti from synagogues, tombs, theaters, and public spaces to build up a picture of what it was like to be a Jew in the Roman empire.

Her explorations found graffiti of numerous kinds: some are just texts (recording the names of the writers); some, she argues, are prayers demanding the attention of those who might pass by the spot; others have imagery of menorahs, obelisks, horses, ships, and even shrouded skeletons. Some of the graffiti is pious and poignant: a graffito from catacomb 20 in Beit Shearim reads “Be of good courage, pious parents! No one is immortal!” Another graffito close by almost flippantly wishes the occupants “Good luck in your resurrection!” Communicative inscriptions like these are found all over the ancient Mediterranean, in Southern Europe, Mesopotamia, and what is now Israel. Graffiti is and was omnipresent.
Past PaleoJudaica posts on Dr. Stern's book and her work are here and links.

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On the Binding of Isaac

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Binding or Sacrifice of Isaac. How Jews and Christians see differently (Robin M. Jensen).
The Akedah (ah-kay-DAH), or binding of Isaac, is one of the most powerful narratives in the Hebrew Bible. For nearly 2,000 years, however, it has been read somewhat differently by Jews and Christians. It is even portrayed differently in the pictures they make. For most Christians, the Hebrew word akedah is unfamiliar; more often than not, they will refer to the episode as the sacrifice of Isaac rather than the binding of Isaac.
Yet, as we shall see, at various times Christians and Jews were aware of each other’s interpretation of the story.

[...]
This is a reprint of an old (1993) article from Bible Review. But it remains a very good survey of literary and art historical traditions about the Binding of Isaac in Jewish and Christian antiquity.

For past PaleoJudaica posts on the Aqedah which deal with some of the same traditions, see here and here and links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The ANE Today reviews the MOTB

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: About That Museum in Washington (Alex Joffe). Dr. Joffe is the editor of The Ancient Near East Today. This is a longish review of the Museum of the Bible. Two excerpts:
Some readers are doubtless ready to stop right here. That would be a mistake, not only because they’d miss some witty insights, but because the museum itself is a serious place that deserves consideration and respect, if only because of the questions it poses for us about the Bible. Who has the right to interpret the Bible? The museum makes it clear that, following the Protestant tradition, all people do. But using what tools? That’s where things get complicated.
And:
Academics have hardly been faithful stewards of the Bible any more than other forms canonical knowledge; efforts to reclaim the Bible on the part of faith were also inevitable. If these also lead to more earnest engagement with the Bible as literature, tradition and morality on the part of academics and intellectuals, all the better. Unfortunately, I see the opposite occurring; Biblical reclamation will be met with further academic approbation, which will only increase the distance between academia and society, heightening mutual suspicion and alienation, and setting up at least one side for a nasty surprise. As Lincoln said, “Certainly there is no contending against the Will of God; but still there is some difficulty in ascertaining, and applying it, to particular cases.”
For many past PaleoJudaica posts on the MOTB, start here and follow the links.

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Review of Rosenberg, Signs of Virginity

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Signs of Virginity (Rebecca Kamholz). Excerpt:
Rosenberg’s book sets out to examine rabbinic paradigms of how virgin women’s bodies work, how the loss of that virginity happens, and therefore, what evidence proves the existence of virginity. This book forms a new entry into the subfield of gender studies within rabbinics, as well as the new and growing interest in modern takes on the study of virginity in Late Antique Judaism and Christianity. In the present study, Rosenberg examines what has been considered proof of virginity in Jewish and later Christian cultures, and the ways male sexual behavior is incentivized to provide those proofs. However, this book is unusual among its peers in focusing, despite its titular emphasis on the verification of female virginity, not on the representation of virginity itself, but rather on how various paradigms of virginity shape masculinity and male sexual behavior.
For the full publication details of this new book from OUP, see here.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Late-antique pilgrimages to the Holy Land

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Pilgrims’ Progress to Byzantine Jerusalem. Ancient pilgrimages to the Holy Land (Megan Sauter).
Jerusalem has been revered as a holy city for millennia—with pilgrims a staple feature in its bustling streets. Egeria’s Travels and the journals of the Bordeaux Pilgrim and the Piacenza Pilgrim demonstrate that this was as true in the Byzantine period as it is today.
In the September/October 2014 issue of BAR, “After Hadrian’s Banishment: Jews in Christian Jerusalem” examines the diverse population of Byzantine Jerusalem. Despite being banned from living in Jerusalem after the Bar-Kokhba Revolt (132–135 A.D.), Jews were once again living in the city by the Byzantine period.
The BAR article is an adaptation by Hershel Shanks of "a lengthy scholarly study by Professors Yoram Tsafrir and Leah di Segni of Hebrew University in Liber Annuus, published by the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum." As usual, the BAR article remains behind the subscription wall. But the BHD essay is a summary of and introduction to it and is itself informative.

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Happy birthday to Eilat Mazar

SLIGHTLY BELATED GOOD WISHES: Eilat Mazar Is Born. September 10, 1956 (The Jewish News).
Archaeologist Eilat Mazar is born. Mazar is a third generation Israeli archaeologist and is most well known for her work at the City of David site in Jerusalem. She is a professor of archaeology at Hebrew University.

[...]
This brief article seems to be recycled from 2014, but never mind. I hope Professor Mazar had a good birthday in 2018. She has appeared often in PaleoJudaica posts. A few posts about her or interviewing her in recent years are here, here, here, and here.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Monday, September 10, 2018

PSCO 56 (2018-19)

THIS YEAR'S PHILADELPHIA SEMINAR ON CHRISTIAN ORIGINS:
The Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins (PSCO) is a colloquium in ancient Judaism, early Christianity, and cognate fields. Its active membership includes teachers and research scholars in the study of early Judaism and early Christianity from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and beyond. (For more information, see “Who We Are.”)

The topic for the fifty-sixth year of PSCO is “Beyond Patristics: North Africa in the First Millennium”. Theodora Naqvi, Jillian Stinchcomb, Steve Weitzman, and Julia Wilker will coordinate the year's sessions. For more information, see our topic page.

[...]
Follow the links for details.

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Does God ever remit punishment?

DR. RABBI ZEV FARBER: Does YHWH Remit Punishment? (TheTorah.com).
As part of the selichot prayer service, the rabbis cut the biblical phrase וְנַקֵּה לֹא יְנַקֶּה “[YHWH] does not remit punishment” to read only וְנַקֵּה, which yields the opposite meaning, “[YHWH] remits punishment.” Although this edit is surprising, the rabbis are responding to a serious tension in the biblical text: Is YHWH a merciful God who pardons, or a vengeful God who will never remit punishment?

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Ululation and Rosh HaShanah

PHILOLOGOS: Where Do the Names of the Shofar Calls Come From? At least one of them might stem from the days when Jews ululated (Mosaic Magazine).
It may be that y’lalah was the biblical word for a lamenting ululation, and that tru’ah generally (although not always, as we have seen) denoted a martial or celebratory one. And if this theory is correct, it answers our two questions. In the form of a ululation, an intended wail might also be interpreted as a cheer, a battle cry, or a cry of jubilation—and while some ancient rabbis thought this was how the shofar should be sounded on Rosh Hashanah after the opening t’ki’ah, others were of the opinion that so ambiguous a sound was inappropriate and should be replaced by a sh’varim.
Got that? It makes more sense in the context of the whole article. Remember, if you read it, that's one of your three free monthly articles from Mosaic.

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Eat like a Babylonian

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: BAR Test Kitchen. Eat like the ancients. With Babylonian, Roman, and Syrian recipes!

Cross-file under Culinary Archaeology.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Rosh HaShanah 2018

HAPPY NEW YEAR (ROSH HASHANAH - Jewish New Year 5779) to all those celebrating. The New Year begins tonight at sundown.

Some posts on the holiday over the last few years are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. For biblical and historical background on Rosh HaShanah and on Jewish calendars in general, see here and here.

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Professor John Rogerson (1935-2018)

THE SAD NEWS has come from the Society of Old Testament Study (SOTS) list (etc.) that Professor John Rogerson passed away on the 4th of September. The SOTS Membership Secretary, Revd Dr Janet E Tollington, has circulated the following information about him:
John was born in 1935, was ordained into the Church of England and became world renowned as a biblical scholar, holding the Chair at Sheffield for many years before his retirement. He joined SOTS in 1965 and served the Society faithfully in many capacities over the years – Secretary (1972-77), Foreign Secretary 1990-97), Archivist (1998-2004). He was elected as President for 1989 and in 1992 his Short History of SOTS 1917-92 was published by the Society to mark its 75th Anniversary. John addressed the Society several times at its meetings – the last occasion being in 2007 – and was a very regular attender until increasingly poor health made this more difficult in recent years. May he RIP.
His wikipedia page, which at the moment has not been updated to note his passing, is here.

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Lithodomos goes to Jerusalem

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Virtual reality tour brings biblical-era Jerusalem to life (AP). Lithodomos, the app with the virtual reality tour of ancient Jerusalem, is being adopted by the Tower of David Museum in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Background here and links.

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Review of Berthelot, In Search of the Promised Land?

H-JUDAIC BOOK REVIEW:
Kraus on Berthelot, 'In Search of the Promised Land?: The Hasmonean Dynasty between Biblical Models and Hellenistic Diplomacy'

Author: Katell Berthelot
Reviewer: Matthew A. Kraus

Katell Berthelot. In Search of the Promised Land?: The Hasmonean Dynasty between Biblical Models and Hellenistic Diplomacy. Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 2017. 494 pp. $125.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-3-525-55252-0.

Reviewed by Matthew A. Kraus (University of Cincinnati) Published on H-Judaic (September, 2018) Commissioned by Katja Vehlow (University of South Carolina)
Excerpt:
The book is more than a rejection of a pervasive assumption that the Hasmoneans rewrote the biblical conquest. Instead, Berthelot relates her analysis to broader issues germane to the period: Were the Hasmoneans influenced by religious/biblical or political/Hellenistic models? Was there a consistent Hasmonean policy or did their policy vary depending on their ruler? Do the primary sources reflect the actual positions of the Hasmoneans or how they and others chose to represent them? Space does not allow a full description of the rich content and discussions in this work. Therefore, following a brief summary of the book’s structure, I will focus on the author’s reading of 1 Maccabees 15:33-34 and its relationship to some of the broader debates about the Hasmoneans.

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The Siloam Inscription

THE HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: Siloam Inscription from Hezekiah’s Tunnel.

Regular PaleoJudaica readers, I know you are well familiar with the Siloam Inscription and the negotiations with Turkey in recent years for its return to Israel. But in the linked post, Carl Rasmussen shares a nice photo he himself took of it. It gives you a sense of what it looks like in front of you - and how difficult it is to read. You can click on the image to enlarge it. Have a look.

My past posts on the Siloam Inscription are here and links. It is a Hebrew inscription from c. 700 B.C.E. found in Hezekiah's Tunnel (associated with the Pool of Siloam) in Jerusalem.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Does the Torah suppress God's kingship?

ROSH HASHANAH IS COMING: Rosh Hashanah: Why the Torah Suppresses God’s Kingship (Prof. Israel Knohl, TheTorah.com).
Several biblical passages imply that God was ritually enthroned as king during the new year celebrations. In the Torah itself, however, this is suppressed. God as king appears only in three ancient poetic passages, never in the Torah’s prose or laws, including in its description of Rosh Hashanah.
I would say "downplays" rather than "suppresses," since the concept does appear in some poetic passages. But I take his point. This essay presents some interesting, if speculative, ideas about the origins of Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish new year (which commences this year on the evening of Sunday, 9 September). [Original incorrect date corrected. Sorry about that!]

I have posted some similar, and similarly speculative, thoughts on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur here and here.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

How tall were biblical giants?

IN REMNANT OF GIANTS, Deane Galbraith has collected some data on the height of biblical giants:

The True Height of Goliath. Goliath was a big guy, but how big exactly? Reports vary.

How tall were the biblical giants? Comparative height chart. Og the giant was a very big guy. There's much more on Og here and links.

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Peleg, Going Up and Going Down

NEW BOOK FROM BLOOMSBURY:
Going Up and Going Down
A Key to Interpreting Jacob's Dream (Gen 28.10-22)


By: Yitzhak (Itzik) Peleg

Published: 07-26-2018
Format: Paperback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 312
ISBN: 9780567672445
Imprint: T&T Clark
Series: The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies
Volume: 609
Dimensions: 6 1/8" x 9 1/4"
List price: $33.95
Online price: $30.56
Save $3.40 (10%)

About Going Up and Going Down
In Going Up and Going Down Yitzhak Peleg argues that the story of Jacob's dream (Genesis 28.10-22), functions as a mise en abyme ('as a figure, trope or structure that somehow reflects in compact form, in miniature, the larger structure in which it appears', Greenstein). Close examination reveals that focusing on the vision of Jacob's dream and understanding it as a symbolic dream facilitates an explanation of the dream and its meaning.

Scholars have historically classified the dream as theophany, the purpose of which is to explain how Beth-El became a sacred place, and as such the vision in Jacob's dream is generally accepted as merely ornamental, or even lacking a message in itself. Whilst Peleg does not contradict or seek to go against identification of the dream as theophany, he sees a more nuanced purpose behind its presentation. Peleg's proposal is that the description of the vision, and especially that of the movement of the angels, is not embellishment, supplementation or scenic background, of God's message, but that it directly symbolizes the path taken by the Patriarchs to and from the Promised Land. Furthermore, the narrative context and visual description in the dream in which 'Angels of God were going up and down it' appears when Jacob is on his way to Harran, that is to say, when he is about to leave Israel.

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Moster on fruit in the Bible

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Fruit in the Bible (David Moster). That is, literary and cultural uses of fruit in the Bible.
While these eight categories are neither rigid nor mutually exclusive, they illustrate the diverse treatment of fruit in the Hebrew Bible. Fruit was much more than a food for the ancient Israelites. It was a symbol that appeared prominently in the culture’s names, laws, proverbs and traditions.

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Friday, September 07, 2018

More on the Maresha Bullae

ICONOGRAPHIC DISCOVERY: 1,020 untouched clay sealings discovered after two millennia in hidden cave. A find of international significance in central Israel, the Hellenistic-era trove puts the ancient cosmopolitan city of Maresha ‘back on the map’ (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
An enormous trove of 2,000-year-old clay seal impressions was chanced upon in August during exploration of a newly discovered seven-room cave complex at the ancient city of Maresha, part of the Bet Guvrin-Maresha National Park in central Israel.

While attempting to photograph the new subterranean complex, archaeologist Dr. Ian Stern and his photographer son, Asaf Stern, discovered an exciting cache of clay impressions (bullae) littered among millennia-old smashed large jars on a small cave’s floor.

[...]
This article has a few new details on the find, including a preliminary answer to my query yesterday whether any had writing on them:
The Israel Antiquities Authority’s head of the Coin Department, Dr. Donald Ariel, conducted a preliminary survey of 300 of the fragile, as yet unwashed clay sealings.

An international expert in the field, Ariel determined that they primarily date from the 2nd century BCE and depicted images of gods, including Athena, Aphrodite, and Apollo, as well as erotic themes, masks, standing figures, and cornucopia. There were a few with Greek letters and numbers indicating dates, but as yet none of the sealings were seen to bear other written inscriptions.
Background here.

UPDATE: Joseph Lauer has directed me to the HUC-JIR press release that is the main source for both articles.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Clearing antiquities from Leviathan's path

MARINE SALVAGE ARCHAEOLOGY: Scuba diving archaeologists find ancient marine relics from a 5,000-year-old port at site where Israel's Leviathan pipeline will be built (Harry Pettit, Daily Mail).
Scuba diving archaeologists are scouring the seabed where a gas pipeline is being built off Israel's coast in a bid to preserve ancient relics.

The area lies near a 5,000-year-old port which once was a key trade hub for the Mediterranean's ancient civilisations.

Scientists say the vestiges of marine traders throughout the ages - from the Phoenicians to the Romans - lie hidden beneath the seabed at the port of Dor.

They have already found earthenware jugs, anchors and the remains of wrecked ships, setting new guidelines for similar future projects.

[...]
As usual, the Mail has some good photos. I was an assistant square supervisor back at Tel Dor in 1984-85 when I was a PhD student. Kurt Raveh was there then too, although I don't think we ever actually met. It was a big excavation.

Some past posts on Tel Dor are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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A dismembered LXX Exodus manuscript

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: A Manuscript of Exodus Wandering in the Wilderness (Brent Nongbri). The manuscript of the Gospel of Judas was part of a cache of manuscripts which included a Greek copy of the Book of Exodus.
The situation is, to put it mildly, not ideal. From the leaves of the codex that have been studied and published, it is evident that the book preserves a distinctive type of text for Exodus that has been only minimally harmonized with the Masoretic Text. From a text critical standpoint, the codex is thus quite important. Nevertheless, to draw on Petrie’s observations, this artifact has not only been murdered, it has also been dismembered. Any contextual knowledge about where and when this text was used has been lost. And that loss of knowledge does not even begin to touch upon the cultural heritage issues at stake with an Egyptian artifact whose history cannot be reliably traced prior to the early 1980s.
Dr. Nongbri's book, God's Library, was published last month. Regular PaleoJudaica readers are familiar with his blog, Variant Readings. Past posts on the Gospel of Judas are here and many links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Rahlfs 967 (LXX)

THE ETC BLOG: Rahlfs 967 of the Kölner Papyri of the Institute of Ancient History at the University of Cologne (John Meade).
I am researching the reception history of Esther in early Jewish and Christian sources and have come to Rahlfs 967 (2nd/3rd), a papyrus MS containing (with lacunae) Ezekiel (pp. 10–61), Daniel (pp. 62–93r), Bel et Draco (pp. 93v–95), Susanna (pp. 96–98), and Esther (pp. 99–109).

[...]
With photos!

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Thursday, September 06, 2018

So many bullae at Maresha!

DISCOVERY: Hundreds of Hellenistic-Period seal impressions discovered at Maresha Israel. The ancient city of Maresha (located next to Beth Guvrin) contains some of the richest archaeological finds in Israel from the Hellenistic Period (ca. 3-2nd centuries BCE) (Heritage Daily). Last month excavators found more than a thousand bullae (clay seal impressions) at Maresha:
One of the world’s leading experts on such bullae, Dr. Donald Ariel of the Israel Antiquities Authority, examined a batch of 300. The images on the sealings include Greek deities such as Athena, Apollo, and Aphrodite as well as cornucopia, erotica, animals, and more. His initial impression is that the bullae represent a very large private archive. These bullae can now be added to the wealth of finds and the hundreds of inscriptions in Greek and Aramaic, discovered at Maresha, which have already riveted the attention of scholars throughout the world. Maresha is our richest source for understanding the multicultural world of Hellenistic Israel. This latest sublime discovery will take several years to catalogue and analyze. Stay tuned for future developments!
There is no mention of any of the new bullae being inscribed with writing, but we don't have a full account yet.

I see that I have blogged on Maresha a number of times (posts collected here), notably on the Greek inscription of Heliodorus found there. See here and here and links. But I mainly remembered the site from a lecture I heard by Michael Langlois a couple of years ago on his work on the Aramaic ostraca recovered there. See here, here, and here for a bit more on that.

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Methuselah has company

UPDATE ON METHUSELAH THE MASADA DATE PALM: Could a Tree Grown from an Ancient Seed in Israel Help Cure Diseases in the Future? (Avi Jorisch, The Tower). Regular PaleoJudaica readers will be familiar with the story of the recovery of date palm seeds from the Masada excavation and the success in getting one, dubbed "Methuselah," to grow in 2004. If you need a recap, this article retells the story. But now there's more:
As for Methuselah, there is a problem: Because he is a male, he will only produce pollen. His female counterparts produce the fruit. The good news is that [agricultural expert Dr. Elaine] Solowey has managed to repeat her success with six more date seeds. In the next few years, she should know if she has successfully planted a female date palm for Methuselah to pollinate.
There's more in the article, so do read it all. But this news caught my eye. I hope that Dr. Solowey and her team are successful in recreating a mate for Methuselah.

Past posts on Methuselah are here and links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

The "Zoo Rabbi" on whether swordfish are kosher

CULINARY TRADITION: Swordfish: A Kashrus Tale Of Legends (Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin, The Jewish Press).
The Talmud (Chullin 66b) and Tosefta (Chullin 3:27) mention a fish called achsaftias as being kosher. The word achsaftias is not Hebrew or Aramaic; it is an Aramaicized version of a Greek word. This appears to be the Greek word xiphias, which refers to the swordfish (based on the Greek xiphos, which refers to a sword). From the outset, then, there is reason to believe the swordfish is the achsaftias of the Talmud and is kosher.

The swordfish, Xiphius gladius, is one of a group of large predatory fishes with swordlike projections known as billfish. Other billfish are several species of marlin, sailfish, and spearfish (which have relatively short bills). But whereas the bills of other billfish are round in cross-section – like spears – that of swordfish are flat in cross-section, like swords. Accordingly, any reference to a fish named “sword” presumably refers to the swordfish.

Furthermore swordfish are by far the most common of all billfish species in the Mediterranean. If swordfish weren’t kosher, the Talmud would not describe another billfish as kosher and mislead people into thinking it was talking about the more common swordfish.
But then there's the matter of its scales, which is complicated.

Rabbi Dr. Slifkin, a.k.a. "the Zoo Rabbi," is curator of the Biblical Museum of Natural History in Beit Shemesh, Israel. Past PaleoJudaica posts on him and the Museum are here and links.

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Aitken and Marlow (eds.), The City in the Hebrew Bible

NEW BOOK FROM BLOOMSBURY:
The City in the Hebrew Bible
Critical, Literary and Exegetical Approaches


Editor(s): James K Aitken, Hilary F. Marlow

Published: 08-23-2018
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 264
ISBN: 9780567678904
Imprint: T&T Clark
Series: The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies
Volume: 672
Dimensions: 6 1/8" x 9 1/4"
List price: $114.00
Online price: $102.60
Save $11.40 (10%)

About The City in the Hebrew Bible
These essays explore the idea of the city in the Hebrew Bible by means of thematic and textual studies. The essays are united by their portrayal of how the city is envisaged in the Hebrew Bible and how the city shapes the writing of the literature considered. In its conceptual framework the volume draws upon a number of other disciplines, including literary studies, urban geography and psycho-linguistics, to present chapters that stimulate further discussion on the role of urbanism in the biblical text.

The introduction examines how cities can be conceived and portrayed, before surveying recent studies on the city and the Hebrew Bible. Chapters then address such issues as the use of the Hebrew term for 'city', the rhythm of the city throughout the biblical text, as well as reflections on textual geography and the work of urban theorists in relation to the Song of Songs. Issues both ancient and modern, historical and literary, are addressed in this fascinating collection, which provides readers with a multi-faceted and interdisciplinary view of the city in the Hebrew Bible.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

The fire in Brazil's National Museum

THE ETC BLOG: Tragedy at the Brazil National Museum (Peter Gurry). No doubt you have heard about the terrible fire that destroyed the National Museum of Brazil on Sunday night. This is a catastrophic loss for the history of Brazil and, indeed, for world history. I am relieved to hear, though, that no one seems to have been injured in the blaze.

Dr. Gurry has linked to some information, posted by Dr. Peter Williams, on Hebrew manuscripts in the museum and its Egyptian collection. They are all presumed lost – with one exception. And here we have one other piece of good news. A medieval Torah scroll in the collection contributed in the 1860s by D. Pedro II, second Emperor of Brazil, was away from the museum for restoration and is safe:

Medieval Torah scroll safe from fire that engulfed Brazil museum. 13th-century Yemenite Torah, once owned by emperor Pedro II, had been removed for restoration before blaze (Marcus M. Gilbam, JTA via Times of Israel).

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Infertility in the Bible

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: What Does the Bible Say About Infertility? Placing the command to “be fruitful and multiply” in context,
Learn more about Biblical infertility in Joel S. Baden and Candida R. Moss’s Biblical Views column “Reevaluating Biblical Infertility” in the September/October 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review and in their recent book Reconceiving Infertility: Biblical Perspectives on Procreation and Childlessness (2015).
This BHD essay is a summary of their BAR column. The column itself is behind the subscription wall.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

The othering of Laban

NAOMI GRAETZ: Arami Oved Avi: The Demonization of Laban (TheTorah.com).
The rabbis translate the phrase ארמי אובד אבי in Deuteronomy 26:5 “an Aramean tried to destroy my father” and understand it as a reference to Laban, who they claim was worse than Pharaoh. But whereas the biblical Laban can be read either sympathetically or unsympathetically, he is hardly a Pharaoh-like villain, so why demonize him?

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Touraj (ed.), Sasanian Iran in the context of Late Antiquity

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Sasanian Iran in the context of Late Antiquity. Notice of a new book: Daryaee, Touraj (ed.). 2018. Sasanian Iran in the context of Late Antiquity: The Bahari lecture series at the Oxford University (Ancient Iran Series VI). Irvine: Jordan Center for Persian Studies.

An understanding of the Sasanian period is important for understanding Judaism in late antiquity, notably the Babylonian Talmud. See here and here and links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

The Talmud on meal offerings and salt

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Salt Bae. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the rabbis debate the use of the flavor-enhancing mineral in sacrificial offerings. Plus: Why wood needs to be sprinkled with salt before it is burned—over wood. Salt is important. But how important?

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

American Veterans Archaeological Recovery (AVAR)

ARCHAEOLOGICAL THERAPY: U.S. veterans use archaeology to dig through trauma in Israel. "Because of their separation from the military culture, a lot of them are really isolated" (Paul Goldman and Francis Whittaker, NBC News).
Stephen Humphreys, a former U.S. Air Force aircraft maintenance officer, heads up the program. He served in the military for six-and-a-half years, before going back to college to become an archaeologist.

[...]

Humphreys hopes that the program won’t just give veterans an “amazing transformative experience to bond together again,” but also bring potential employment opportunities in the field.

AVAR works with specialists from the University of Haifa’s Zinman Institute of Archaeology, including Dr. Adi Erlich, who is in charge of the excavation at Beit She’arim, a site rich in history.

“Ancient Beit She’arim was a major Jewish town in Galilee during the Roman and Byzantine periods,” Erlich said.

The site was the hometown of Rabbi Judah — a major Jewish leader in the late second and early third centuries — whose burial place became a famous necropolis.
Past PaleoJudaica posts on Beit She'arim (Beith Shearim) are here and links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Criticism of the World Creation Concert at the Ophel Garden

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Israel Antiquities Archaeologist Attacks World Creation Concert: The Kotel Isn’t a Bar Mitzvah Hall (David Israel, The Jewish Press).
Yuval Baruch, Jerusalem District archaeologist for the Israel Antiquities Authority, on Sunday told Ha’aretz he’s had it up to here with people using state archaeological sites to run their private events. Ha’aretz quoted him regarding an upcoming, unique event: a celebration of the Creation of the World.

[...]
The Haaretz article is a premium one, so I haven't read it. If you want to, it's here. I'm saving my six free ones this month for something more interesting. But this piece seems to summarize its main contents.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Israel using UNESCO dues for Hebron Jewish heritage

REROUTED FUNDING: ISRAEL TO DEVELOP HEBRON HERITAGE WITH UNESCO CASH. Israel and the United States stopped paying their UNESCO dues in 2011, after the organization became the first UN organ to recognize Palestine as a member state (Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post).
The government is set to fund increased development of Hebron’s Jewish heritage, with money it saved by not paying its annual dues to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The cabinet is expected to vote Wednesday to reallocate NIS 3.5 million of what it would have spent on UNESCO dues in 2017 to the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage, with specific instruction to spend it on development of Jewish heritage sites in Hebron.

[...]
Background on the falling out of UNESCO with Israel and the U.S.A. is here and links. For the UNESCO resolution on the Cave of the Patriarchs mentioned in the article, see here and links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Monday, September 03, 2018

More Elman tributes

THE LEHRHAUS: Lo Alman Yisrael: Reflections on the Legacy of Yaakov Elman.
His passing spurred two events hosted at Yeshiva University’s Jerusalem and Manhattan campuses to mark his sheloshim (thirty days to his passing). The Lehrhaus has decided to publish several of these talks, which are linked below.
There are tributes by David Berger, Shana Strauch Schick, Mahnaz Moazami, Meira Wolkenfeld, Shlomo Zuckier, and Richard Hidary.

HT AJR. Background here and links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Universalism and Joseph and Aseneth

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Beyond “Universalism versus Particularism” in the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christianity: A Note on Aseneth[1]

The story devises what we might call a “strategy” of gentile inclusion, providing a synthetic argument in favor of gentile incorporation through its creative appropriation of theological language from Jewish scriptures. The text fashions Israel’s “living God” as the universal, life-giving, creator God who may bestow (new) life to all creatures, including those originally excluded.

See Also: Arguing with Aseneth: Gentile Access to Israel’s Living God in Jewish Antiquity (Oxford University Press, 2018).

By Jill Hicks-Keeton
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
University of Oklahoma
August 2018
For my part, I remain unconvinced that Joseph and Aseneth is a first-century Jewish work rather than a late-antique Christian one. It could be either. Or something else. Therefore I am hesitant about any argument that uses it as a basis for evaluating universalism in ancient Judaism. I have more comments on the question of the provenance of the work here.

Then again, I have not read Dr. Hicks-Keaton's book. Perhaps it would persuade me. I noted the publication of the book here and a related (and relevant) article here.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Lydia and Tabitha

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Lydia and Tabitha in the Bible. Women leaders in the early Christian church (Megan Sauter). This essay is a summary of a BAR Biblical Views column from a couple of years ago: “Tabitha and Lydia—Models of Early Christian Women Leaders” by Teresa Calpino in the July/August 2016 issue. The column itself is behind the subscription wall.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Biblical Studies Carnival 150

KEVIN TURNER: Biblical Studies Carnival 150. Welcome to the August 2018 Biblical Studies Carnival. Also, Phil Long continues to be short of volunteers to host Biblical Studies Carnivals after next month. If you are interested, drop him a note.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Criticisms of the MOTB's use of Jewish tradition

CANDIDA MOSS AND JOEL BADEN: How the Museum of the Bible Exploits Jewish Tradition—And Saves Its Evangelical Christian Donors Millions. Thousands of Torah scrolls bought by wealthy evangelicals are not just being mishandled and used to boost Christian beliefs, but exploited as a multi-million dollar tax write-off (The Daily Beast).

For many past PaleoJudaica posts on the MOTB, see here and links, here, and here.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Laato, The Origin of Israelite Zion Theology

NEW BOOK FROM BLOOMSBURY:
The Origin of Israelite Zion Theology

By: Antti Laato

Published: 07-12-2018
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 352
ISBN: 9780567680020
Imprint: T&T Clark
Series: The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies
Volume: 661
Dimensions: 6 1/8" x 9 1/4"
List price: $128.00
Online price: $115.20
Save $12.80 (10%)

About The Origin of Israelite Zion Theology
In this examination of Zion theology and how it arises in the book of Psalms Antti Laato's starting-point is that the Hebrew Bible is the product of the exilic and postexilic times, which nonetheless contains older traditions that have played a significant role in the development of the text. Laato seeks out these older mythical traditions related to Zion using a comparative methodology and looking at Biblical traditions alongside Ugaritic texts and other ancient Near Eastern material. As such Laato provides a historical background for Zion theology which he can apply more broadly to the Psalms.

In addition, Laato argues that Zion-related theology in the Psalms is closely related to two events recounted in the Hebrew Bible. First, the architectural details of the Temple of Solomon (1 Kings 6-7), which can be compared with older mythical Zion-related traditions. Second, the religious traditions related to the reigns of David and Solomon such as the Ark Narrative, which ends with David's transfer of the Ark to Jerusalem (2 Sam 6). From this Laato builds an argument for a possible setting in Jerusalem at the time of David and Solomon for the Zion theology that emerges in the Psalms.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Weinfeld, Early Jewish Liturgy (in Hebrew)

ON SALE FROM MAGNES PRESS:
Early Jewish Liturgy
From Psalms to the Prayers in Qumran and Rabbinic Literature


By Moshe Weinfeld

Purchase options: Price Site price
Printed book $ 30.30 $ 16.00
Online book & Download $ 22.73
Online book for libraries

This book is on sale!
Rosh Hashanah Sale
Publisher: The Hebrew University Magnes Press
Categories:
Prayers, Poetry and Piyutim, Jewish Studies, Talmud, Ancient East
Publish date: April 2004
Language: Hebrew
Danacode: 45-101100
ISBN: 965-493-192-3
Cover: Hardcover
Pages: 300
Format: 24x17 cm
Weight: 620 gr.

This book contains articles written by Moshe Weinfeld about Early Jewish Liturgy and examines the development of Jewish prayer throughout time.
This is by no means a new book. It was published in 2004. But I haven't mentioned it before and Magnes Press has it in its Rosh HaShanah sale. For you, special deal!

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Nakhai, "How to Avoid Gender-Based Hostility During Fieldwork"

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
How to Avoid Gender-Based Hostility During Fieldwork

This article appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education July 15, 2018

See Also: On the Professional Advancement of Women in Near Eastern Archaeology

Survey on Field Safety: Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean Basin

By Beth Alpert Nakhai
Arizona Center for Judaic Studies
University of Arizona
August 2018

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Saturday, September 01, 2018

Ancient coin motifs on modern coins

NUMISMATICS: Ancient Coins on Modern Coins (Mike Markowitz, CoinWeek).
Coin engravers inherit a rich legacy of classical art. Ancient Greek and Roman images permeate modern numismatic design. Often, an ancient design is reinterpreted in modern style, but sometimes an ancient coin is simply reproduced on a modern piece.
The article gives lots of examples from ancient and modern Israel, as well as the Greco-Roman world and modern Europe. And even a couple from the U.S.A. and modern Britain.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Review of the MOTB Jerusalem and Rome exhibition

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: A Review of Jerusalem and Rome: Cultures in Context in the First Century CE (Cavan Concannon).
“What was life like over 2,000 years ago? Discover the dynamic story of the First Century, from the daily lives of ordinary people to the greatest struggle for autonomy in the history of the Roman Empire in the museum’s largest temporary exhibit!”

So reads a tweet sent out by the Museum of the Bible (MOTB) on August 4, 2018, announcing the opening of Jerusalem and Rome: Cultures in Context in the First Century CE—a temporary exhibit highlighting archaeological objects on loan from and curated by the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem that aspires to tell a complicated story of Jewish life in Palestine in the first century CE.

[...]
The problems with the information provided by the MOTB tour guides are disquieting. That said, my general experience with tour guides is that their information is muddled - except in the rare cases when the guide is an expert specialist.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.