Sunday, November 18, 2018

New images of Huqoq mosaics

DECORATIVE ART: Stunning biblical mosaics revealed in detail for the first time (James Rogers, Fox News).
For the first time, archaeologists have released detailed images of stunning biblical mosaics discovered at the site of an ancient synagogue site in Northern Israel.

The mosaics depict Noah’s Ark, the parting of the Red Sea, Jonah and the fish and the Tower of Babel, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Portions of the mosaics have been revealed before, but this is the first time the artifacts have been shown in their full glory.

[...]
Nice photos.

Background on the Huqoq synagogue mosaics is here and many links.

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Review of Cromwell, Recording Village Life: A Coptic Scribe in Early Islamic Egypt

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Jennifer A. Cromwell, Recording Village Life: A Coptic Scribe in Early Islamic Egypt. New texts from ancient cultures. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2017. Pp. xxiv, 287. ISBN 9780472130481. $90.00. ISBN 9780472123117. ebook. Reviewed by Alain Delattre, Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB)​ (Alain.Delattre@ulb.ac.be).
This is the revised version of Jennifer Cromwell’s PhD dissertation (Liverpool 2008). The author originally aimed at studying and reediting the corpus of Djeme papyri (P.KRU). The enormity of the task led her to focus on the texts drawn up by a specific scribe, Aristophanes, son of John, who lived in Western Thebes during the first half of the 8th century.1 Not only did the author explore Aristophanes’ scribal practices, but she also considered people and procedures involved in the documents. This original perspective allows her to draw an interesting portrait of the society of a village in the early Islamic period and to offer a stimulating study on a scribe’s life and practices.

[...]
Cross-file under Coptic Watch.

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Review of Stern, The Jewish Bible: A Material History

THE JEWISH REVIEW OF BOOKS: Black Fire on White Fire (Adam Kirsch).
The Jewish Bible: A Material History
by David Stern
University of Washington Press, 320 pp., $50 [2017]
Excerpt:
In The Jewish Bible, Stern masterfully synthesizes this scholarship, offering a chronological history of Jewish sacred books from Qumran to the JPS Tanakh. For if the Sefer Torah itself hasn’t changed, other ways Jews encounter their scripture definitely have. Indeed, as Stern shows, the Jewish book serves as a lens through which we can study central themes of Jewish history and thought.
Adam Kirsh also has an ongoing Daf Yomi column at Tablet Magazine.

HT AJR.

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Journal of Jesus Movement in Its Jewish Setting partners with 3 universities

THE JOURNAL OF THE JESUS MOVEMENT IN ITS JEWISH SETTING FROM THE FIRST TO THE SEVENTH CENTURY HAS AN ANNOUNCEMENT:
JJMJS is strongly committed to remain open access. Moving forward, we, as any other open-access journals, must secure long-term economic stability without compromising academic quality. We are therefore very pleased to announce that, through a unique collaborative effort, JJMJS is now entering a multilateral partnership with Hebrew University of Jerusalem, DePaul University in Chicago, and the University of Oslo

[...]

The current issue of JJMJS, the first in its new form, offers a Special Issue on Paul, which we have entitled Paul, Judaism, and the Jewish People. Contributors include: Margaret M. Mitchell, Matthew Thiessen, Paula Fredriksen, James Crossley, Neil Elliott, Adele Reinhartz, Matthew Novenson, and Gregory Tatum, with an introduction by the undersigned [chief editor Anders Runesson]. The issue considers in particular the impact of the work of E.P. Sanders forty years after the publication of his magisterial Paul and Palestinian Judaism, but also includes discussion of the very latest research in Pauline Studies.
There are more details at the link, as well as the full text of the current, free, open-access Issue 5 (2018).

PaleoJudaica noted the lauching of the journal back at the beginning of 2016.

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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Review of Marx-Wolf, Spiritual Taxonomies and Ritual Authority

BOOK REVIEW: As promised, here is my book review presented (in absentia) in the Mysticism, Esotericism, and Gnosticism (MEGA) Section last year at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, November 2017.
Heidi Marx-Wolf, Associate Professor of Religion at the University of Manitoba, has presented us with a study of the work of several third-century philosophers in Spiritual Taxonomies and Ritual Authority. Platonists, Priests, and Gnostics in the Third Century C.E., published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2016. In it, she takes us in some unusual directions that sometimes lead to unexpected results.

The Introduction lays out the agenda of the book. In the late second and early third centuries a number of philosophers, both Christians and polytheists, began producing hierarchical taxonomies of spiritual beings much influenced by Platonism. They also presented themselves as authoritative priests who could pronounce on ritual matters and they tried to influence their social order so as to make themselves “brokers of salvation.” They did all this in competition with the more traditional religious experts in their society. These are new developments in the broad philosophical world of late antiquity and, Heidi argues, they bear closer examination. She sets out to explore these spiritual taxonomies and their social implications by focusing on a number of specific philosophers: the Christian Origen, who was a controversial figure in his own time, and the polytheists Plotinus, Porphyry, and Iamblichus.

Chapter One, “How to Free a Daemon: Third-Century Philosophers on Blood Sacrifice,” argues that proponents in the third century advocating a particular ontological status of evil demons reached conclusions that fall into an unexpected pattern. Christian and polytheistic philosophers could agree while the polytheistic philosophers disagreed among themselves.

Porphyry argued that it was evil demons who required blood sacrifices. In this he agreed with Christian writers, notably the author of Pseudo-Clementine Homily 9. Porphyry may have drawn on a work by Origen called Concerning Demons, although there is debate on whether the author is the Christian figure Origen or an otherwise unknown polytheistic philosopher with the same name. And somewhat later, the Church historian Eusebius drew on (and perhaps somewhat misrepresented) Porphyry’s work to argue that the Greek and Roman gods were actually demons. Porphyry had considerable agreement with Christians on the issue of blood sacrifice. These agreements may to some degree be explained by shared influences about issues such as pneumatology and the nature of blood by the likes of Plato and Galen.

Iamblichus, however, disagreed with Porphyry on this matter. Iamblichus believed that blood sacrifices had their place in the divine order and that they were efficacious in purifying people who were at a certain spiritual level.

Indeed, Porphyry and Iamblichus disagreed more broadly on the whole issue of the validity and usefulness of ritual. Porphyry believed that ritual was superfluous for the philosopher and that the intellect alone sufficed to reach the divine. But Iamblichus believed that ritual, in the form of theurgy, was not just for the philosopher; it could bring about universal salvation.

Chapter Two, “Everything in its Right Place: Spiritual Taxonomy in Third Century Platonism,” focuses on these taxonomies and the intellectual agenda behind them. It also probes points of moral and ontological disorder in the taxonomies in which, as Heidi says, “the spirits refuse to stay put” (p. 39).

Origen set out to refute the notion that human souls could be divided into multiple spiritual species. Rather, he believed that all “minds” were created with the same nature and their spiritual rankings came about through their own primeval decisions. The ones whose choices led them to “fall” into the material realm were subjected to “cooling” that rendered them into “souls.” Origen’s attempt to described a process for reversing this transformation led to his less-than-clear ideas about “apocatastasis,” the means by which souls, perhaps even including the devil and his demons, could be restored to their original state and reconciled with God. In Origen’s pneumatology, there is no ontological difference between human souls and demons.

Porphyry has no consistent taxonomy of spirits. He refers to souls and to daemons, between which there seems to have been some slippage. But he also refers to various kinds of gods, as well as to angels, archangels, and archons.

Iamblichus works with Porphyry’s categories, but he does formulate them into a rigorously consistent pattern. Nevertheless, some “taxonomic amorphousness” (p. 55) remains in his system. Heidi guides us through the issues by focusing on Iamblichus’s treatment of “daemons.” He may have taken properties tied to matter in Platonic cosmology, notably an inductility that tends to thwart the advancement of human souls, and transferred it to demons. This was his way of rehabilitating matter. On this reading, his system was not “decadent,” as earlier scholars such as Dodds thought. He was simply not using a fully Platonic cosmology. Rather, his theology and teachings about proper ritual praxis engaged with popular theology and praxis.

As an illustration of this perspective, Heidi takes us through his treatment of the category of “archons.” Archons add nothing to his system. He includes them simply because they were already part of the popular consciousness. We find them at about the same time in magical handbooks and the work of “Gnostics,” about which more will be said below. Philosophers, Heidi argues, made deliberate connections with the concerns of popular piety in an attempt to place themselves as religious authorities on the popular front as well as the intellectual.

Chapter Three, “The Missing Link: Third-Century Platonists and “Gnostics” on Daemons and Other Spirits,” considers the focus on spiritual taxonomies by third-century philosophers, a focus unique to them. Why did they do it? Heidi finds the missing link in the cosmologies and spiritual taxonomies in the Nag Hammadi texts and related “Gnostic” literature. The Gnostic writers, like the philosophers, set out to harmonize all human wisdom and struggled to make their systems consistent and unambiguous. The Gnostic texts are now regarded as important for the study of early Christian theology. Heidi suggests that they are also important for late-antique philosophy.

Origen’s interactions with Ophite theology may indicate that he was familiar with Sethian texts. Porphyry and Plotinus knew versions of some of the Nag Hammadi texts. Porphyry mentions them by title in his Life of Plotinus. Plotinus interacted with the Gnostics throughout his career, and this interaction seems to have deteriorated into rivalry. He criticized their theology, but his own view of matter as deficient and the basis of evil undermined his critique. And in some cases he and his school may well have been influenced by such texts.

Having acknowledged and briefly discussed the problems with the term “Gnostic,” Heidi presents us with two case studies on Sethian texts.

The case study on the Secret Revelation of John (or Apocryphon of John) focuses on an interpolation in the Codex II manuscript which describes the 365 demons of the psychic body of Adam, one for each body part. External parallels to this list indicate that in its original context it may have had a ritual or apotropaic function. Considerable moral ambiguity is involved, but these beings may have been seen to have something of a positive function.

The case study on Zostrianos focuses on its treatment of daemons and human souls. In antiquity there was some association of the figure Zostrianos with the Platonic figure of Er (in the guise of Zoroaster). This Platonic connection may have drawn Porphyry’s attention to this text, which he mentions, and may have led him to address questions of cosmic geography and spiritual taxonomy, as it does. Its ritual elements may also have induced him to write about ritual in relation to philosophical salvation. More specifically, Heidi argues that he borrowed from Zostrianos regarding the question of the fates of different sorts of souls. Mainly, there is a somewhat similar threefold division of souls for Porphyry and Zostrianos. Roughly this amounts to one group that is earthly, a second group that is making progress, and a third group that has attained full blessedness.

Chapter Four, “High Priests of the Highest God: Third Century Platonists as Ritual Experts,” looks at the ideology of priesthood advocated by our philosophers and how it fed into their competition with more traditional priests.

In his homilies on Leviticus, Origen connected the Levitical high priests with Christian priests, a status that he himself could claim. That said, his status was contested both in his native Egypt and elsewhere. For him, the high priesthood included knowledge involving systematic spiritual taxonomy. A priest also knows the hidden meaning of ritual. In addition, Origen was careful to “perform” his identity as high priest in his homilies by rehearsing the details of the rituals in Leviticus and expounding on their inner meaning. As already noted, for Origen, the priests of his day who literally undertook blood sacrifices were implicitly worshipping evil spirits.

Porphyry similarly condemned blood sacrifice and otherwise disparaged ritual actions used by contemporary ritual experts. Porphyry and Origen agreed that only the philosophical lifestyle could make one a high priest of the highest god.

Iamblichus and Porphyry disagreed about the validity of blood sacrifice, but they agreed that philosopher priests like themselves were the higher ritual practitioners. Iamblichus, considered the theurgist to hold the highest status of ritual practitioners, higher than Egyptian priests. He too was setting himself up as a high priest to replace other, more traditional priests and practitioners.

Heidi places this situation into a larger context by bringing in the (so-called) Greek Magical Papyri and the Hermetic literature. Recent research on the magical papyri sees them as mainstream ritual instructions rather than subversive and illicit as they have been traditionally regarded by scholars. They are actually innovative adaptations by traditional Egyptian priests, whose role and power had been derailed by Roman rule. Increasingly these priests had to rely on their own charismatic authority to make a living. To do this they mixed traditional Egyptian religion with Greek, Jewish, etc. material and took advantage of “stereotype appropriation” of the “magos” identity found in the traditions of the ruling power.

The Hermetica seem likewise to have been produced by disenfranchised Egyptian priests. Hermeticism combined Egyptian priestly ritual material with trendy Platonism. This connection with Platonism may have made Hermeticism of interest to our philosophers.

Based on the content of the Hermetic books according Plutarch, it seems likely that Iamblichus’s knowledge of Egyptian religion came from Hermetic sources and thus consisted of some priestly Egyptian traditions but in a highly syncretistic mixture.

Why did our philosophers take on the role of priest and assign regular priests a lower status over inferior gods and even malign spirits? Heidi argues that it was because they had competitors: the Gnostics and the newly unemployed Egyptian priests. The social situation for this competition would have been schools in major cities, especially Alexandria and Rome. Our philosophers probably sincerely believed that their all-encompassing philosophical lifestyle gave them superior spiritual knowledge and that they could protect people from the dangerous, botched teachings of the inferior ritual experts.

The Conclusion carries the inquiry of the book into the next century, arguing that charismatic authority continued to be important even in the context of institutional church authority. Heidi gives two examples, both from the late fourth century. Ambrose of Milan showed charismatic authority over good and evil spiritual forces as part of a political and institutional conflict during which he located the hidden bodies of two martyred saints. John Chrysostom wrote an infamous series of letters condemning Christians for involvement in Jewish festivals, rituals, and synagogue worship. In them he asserted charismatic authority over the ritual practices of other Christians and in the discernment of dangerous spirits.

In sum, our third century philosophers were marginal figures, but they still had political ambitions and cultivated political connections. They attempted to place themselves as advisors to the politically powerful or even just imagined themselves in such roles. Often their efforts had little impact in the real world. But their approach of combining and adopting the roles of philosopher and high priest eventually, after their time, proved to be viable and productive.

What then, are the contributions of this book? On a very focused level, by looking closely at the work of several third-century philosophers in their broader intellectual context, it demonstrates a strategic shift toward consolidating the role of philosopher with the role of priest in this century. The elucidation of this basic point brings out a number of subsidiary conclusions. The philosophical dialogue was complex and nonlinear: Christians and polytheists could agree while polytheists disagreed among themselves. Areas of agreement could be established by the common influence of earlier figures rather than current affiliations. Far from being decadent, the work of these philosophers was an innovative attempt to engage with popular philosophical and theological trends. Thus the Gnostic literature is important for understanding late-antique philosophy as well as theology. And the trendy Platonism of the Hermetic writers arguably presented a challenge that our philosophers felt obligated to address.

Out of this examination of such philosophical interactions arises the key conclusion that our third-century philosophers were not writing in a vacuum. They had competition. The Gnostic Christians and the disenfranchised traditional Egyptian priests were promulgating their own popular Platonist theologies for their own purposes. The Gnostics were certainly in dialogue with both Christians and traditional polytheist philosophers and the same may well have been true of the priests who produced the Hermetica and the Greek Magical Papyri. Jewish traditions were at work in the mix as well, although placing them remains for another discussion. At least to some degree, our philosophers felt that they had to respond to their competitors. In interacting with their ideas they were inevitably also influenced by them.

Some broader points and areas for further research also arise from the tightly-focused research in this book. First, the point that disenfranchised priests and religious experts in late antiquity were a force to be reckoned with for contemporary philosophers has the potential for broader application. Our most abundant sources come from Egypt, due to their preservation in its dry climate. But there is reason to infer that similar social processes were at work elsewhere. A closer look at the less abundant, but still suggestive, evidence from places such as Syria and Iraq would likely be rewarding.

Second, in the Conclusion, Heidi makes a case that our philosophers established a productive cultural template in their fusion of the roles of intellectual philosopher and charismatic high priest. This fusion was perhaps ahead of its time: for the most part it failed to fulfill the ambitions of those who conceived it. But in the fourth century some Christian leaders used it considerably more successfully. A closer look at this cultural transition would, again, likely be rewarding.

I can find very little to criticize in the book. Given the paucity of our information, even in the relatively abundant sources from Egypt, Heidi necessarily had to connect a lot of dots to establish patterns. Some of her suggestions are imaginative reconstructions, but she is careful to label them as such and they are generally expressed cautiously and judiciously. They are useful at the very least as stimulating thought experiments. That said, I am not quite convinced that Porphyry’s taxonomy in the surviving fragments of On the River Styx is necessarily a response in particular to Zostrianos. Although he does tell us that he did write a response to that work and On the River Styx does have some parallels to Zostrianos, Heidi offers us no direct connections. The parallels are quite general and could be a matter of both works drawing on ideas that were being discussed in the schools and implemented by different philosophers each in their own way.

I will mention two small matters. First, it is surprising to encounter a monograph published in 2016 which still uses inconvenient end notes rather than footnotes. I can think of no reason that could justify it. This was clearly outside of Heidi’s control, but I hope she will let the publisher know that readers are not pleased by it.

Second, a more comprehensive conclusion would have strengthened the volume and topped it off nicely. The Conclusion of the book has a few summary comments, but most of it consists of new material making a new point. A larger summing up what Heidi wants us to take away from Chapters One through Four would have been helpful. I have given my best understand of that here and I hope I have gotten it right.

It remains only for me to thank Heidi for a thought-provoking piece of work that shines new light on a fascinating corner of the late-antique intellectual world by placing it in the context of popular philosophy and competition for influence in an age when traditional authority was breaking down. An age rather like ours in 2017.
And still in 2018. I noted the book here (cf. here) when it was first published. And I noted earlier reviews here and here.

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The Religious Worldviews Reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls (ed. Clements, Kister and Segal)

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
The Religious Worldviews Reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls
Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature, 28–30 May, 2013


Series:
Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah, Volume: 127

Editors: Ruth A. Clements, Menahem Kister and Michael Segal

The Dead Sea Scrolls offer a window onto the rich theological landscape of Judaism in the Second Temple period. Through careful textual analysis, the authors of these twelve studies explore such topics as dualism and determinism, esoteric knowledge, eschatology and covenant, the nature of heaven and / or the divine, moral agency, and more; as well as connections between concepts expressed in the Qumran corpus and in later Jewish and Christian literature. The religious worldviews reflected in the Scrolls constitute part of the ideological environment of Second Temple Judaism; the analysis of these texts is essential for the reconstruction of that milieu. Taken together, these studies indicate the breadth and depth of theological reflection in the Second Temple period.

Publication Date: 16 October 2018
ISBN: 978-90-04-38423-1

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Kurshan on telling children Talmudic tales

TALMUD WATCH: Why We Should Teach Our Children Talmud Folk Tales — Instead Of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Ilana Kurshan, The Forward). This essay is largely a review of a recent book by Jeffrey Rubenstein: The Land of Truth: Talmud Tales, Timeless Teachings (JPS, 2018).

I noted some essays by Professor Rubenstein here, here, and here. Posts here, here, and here are also relevant. And for more on Ilana Kurshan and her book, If All the Seas Were Ink, start here and follow the links.

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Brill and fake and unprovenanced manuscripts

FACES AND VOICES: Open letter to Brill: Fake and unprovenanced manuscripts (Roberta Mazza). Updated with a reply from Brill.

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Friday, November 16, 2018

SBL 2018

THE SOCIETY OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE'S 2018 ANNUAL MEETING is about to begin in Denver, Colorado. Technically it begins tomorrow, on Saturday the 17th. But related sessions begin today. Many delegates are arriving today and some are already there.

I had to skip last year's meeting and I'm not attending this year either. SBL colleagues, I will miss you all. I trust you will be able to manage (just) for another year without me.

Last year my review of Heidi Marx-Wolf's book, Spiritual Taxonomies and Ritual Authority. Platonists, Priests, and Gnostics in the Third Century C.E. (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016) was presented in absentia. Just so you have something SBL-related from me, I will post it tomorrow.

SBL friends, have a great time in Denver! I look forward to seeing you all in San Diego for the 2019 SBL Annual Meeting.

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More on those cistern etchings

PHOTO ESSAY: Photos: Biblical-Era Cistern and Carvings Discovered in Israel (Stephanie Pappas, Live Science).

Background here. Cross-file under Graffiti Art.

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Yardeni's last book

FORTHCOMING BOOK FROM CARTA, by the late Ada Yardeni:
THE NATIONAL HEBREW SCRIPT - Up To The Babylonian Exile

The present work is Ada's last contribution to the field of Hebrew and West-Semitic palaeography that a sad fate prevented her from completing. *** FORTHCOMING *** PRESALE *** Note: Orders will be delivered upon publication (early December 2018).
HT Todd Bolen at the Bible Places Blog.

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The Cult of Mithras in Late Antiquity

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: The Cult of Mithras in Late Antiquity. Notice of a New Book: Walsh, David. 2018. The Cult of Mithras in Late Antiquity: Development, Decline and Demise ca. A.D. 270-430. Leiden: Brill. Follow the link for details.

A couple of other recent books on Mithras have been noted here, here, and here.

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Hurtado reviews Nongbri, God's Library

LARRY HURTADO: “God’s Library” (by Brent Nongbri): A Review.
Nongbri has produced a “must read” for all those interested in early Christian manuscripts, and will likely persuade some of those who haven’t shown such interest that they should! His proposals for revisions of dating of some key manuscripts carry varying force, but deserve a careful and considerate evaluation. But it has to be said that the dates assigned to early Christian manuscripts have tended to be reached by papyrologists and palaeographers, practicing the same methods by which they date non-Christian manuscripts. So, for example, if too many Christian manuscripts have been assigned too early, then is the same the case for the many more non-Christian manuscripts dated by the same people and by the same methods? But, to repeat myself for emphasis, we can all be grateful for Nongbri’s impressively researched book, which I am sure will deservedly generate still greater interest in the study of early Christian manuscripts as artefacts.
Dr. Nongbri responds to the review here: Palaeography and Codices: A Couple Thoughts on Larry Hurtado’s Review of God’s Library.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on the book are here, here, and here.

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Thursday, November 15, 2018

NT Chair at the University of St Andrews

JOB OPENING: NEW TESTAMENT PROFESSORSHIP AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS.
We wish to appoint a Professor within the School of Divinity in the field of New Testament Studies. The successful candidate will be an outstanding scholar of international reputation whose core focus of research is the New Testament. He or she will be expected to have a range of interests in this field which strengthen and complement those already within the School, and to make an outstanding contribution to the advancement of the study of the New Testament through research outputs and teaching. The successful candidate will be expected to represent the University of St Andrews in the UK and international communities in prominent ways.

The successful candidate will hold a doctorate in (or directly related to) the field of New Testament Studies. He or she will be expected to be capable of teaching the subject to undergraduate and taught postgraduate students from a wide range of backgrounds, as well as attracting and supervising research postgraduate students. The primary criteria for appointment will be evidence of an internationally recognised record of outstanding research relating directly to the New Testament, and a clear programme of anticipated research activity in this field for the coming years.

Informal enquiries about this post may be directed to Dr Steve Holmes, Head of School (divhos@st-andrews.ac.uk) or to Prof. Judith Wolfe, Deputy Head of School (jw240@st-andrews.ac.uk).

Applications are particularly welcome from women, who are under-represented in academic posts at the University.

The University is committed to equality for all, demonstrated through our working on diversity awards (ECU Athena SWAN/Race Charters; Carer Positive; LGBT Charter; and Stonewall). More details can be found at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/hr/edi/diversityawards/.
Follow the link for further particulars and application information. The closing date is 14 December 2018.

I am not involved with this search, so I am not the person to contact with questions. Instead, see the relevant contact information above. There will also be a number of St Andrews Divinity scholars at the SBL meetings in Denver.

This is my twenty-fourth year at the University of St Andrews. It is is a great place to work. If you are interested, please do apply. I look forward to a new senior colleague in New Testament joining us soon.

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The Ptolemaic coins, part II

NUMISMATICS: CoinWeek Ancient Coin Series: The Ptolemies, Part II (Mike Markowitz). I noted and commented on Part I of this series here. See there for more biblical and historical background.

For this period Daniel 11 is more interested in the Seleucid dynasty than the Ptolemies. But a few of the Ptolemaic kings depicted on these coins do appear:

• Ptolemy IV Philopator (vv. 11-12, "the king of the south").

• Ptolemy V Epiphanes (vv. 14, 17, also "the king of the south"). Ptolemy V's wife, Cleopatra I, daughter of Antiochus III, is also mentioned (unnamed) in v. 17.

• Ptolemy VI Philometor (vv. 25-27, yet again, "the king of the south").

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A new translation of 1-2 Samuel

THE AWOL BLOG: The Book Of Shmu'el - A New Translation. By William Whitt. Free online. Dr. Whitt's Academia.edu page is here.

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Talmud Yerushalmi database

H-JUDAIC: Talmud Yerushalmi database. Cross-file under Talmud Watch.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

New bit of ancient astronomical computer recovered

MARINE ARCHAEOLOGY: Missing Piece of Antikythera Mechanism Found on Aegean Seabed. Bronze disk unearthed by archaeologists in same wreck where original 2,200-year-old computer had been found; also located bits of the ship that Jacques Cousteau and looters hadn't destroyed (Philippe Bohstrom, Haaretz premium).
More than 2,200 years after it sank beneath the waves, diving archaeologists have possibly found a missing piece of the Antikythera Mechanism, the fantastically complicated, advanced analog "computer" found in a shipwreck off a Greek island. Scanning shows the encrusted cogwheel to bear an image of Taurus the bull.

The Antikythera Mechanism was discovered in 1901, technically speaking. An encrusted lump was salvaged by Greek sponge divers in clunky metal diving suits from the Mediterranean seabed. Not that anybody realized what it was at the time. It would take decades and advanced x-ray technology for scientists to realize that the "rock" was a wondrously advanced sophisticated analog calculator consisting of dozens of intermeshed gears.

The Mechanism could do not only basic math: with dozens of exquisitely worked cogwheels, it could calculate the movements of the sun and moon, predict eclipses and equinoxes, and could be used to track the solar system planets, the constellations, and much more.

[...]
Past PaleoJudaica posts involving the Antikythera Mechanism are here and here. Like the Gozo shipwreck on the coast of Malta, the Antikythera shipwreck just keeps on giving. Even after more than a century.

This story isn't directly connected to ancient Judaism. But circles in Second Temple Judaism were quite interested in science, especially astronomical science. I still wonder if the Enochian astronomers would approve or disapprove of the Antikythera Mechanism.

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Report on Syriac "Crossroads" Conference

SYRIAC WATCH: International conference explores Syriac Christianity. Professor Sebastian Brock speaks about St. Ephrem the Syrian’s contribution to Syriac Christianity. (Vatican News).
A two-day conference entitled “Syriac Christianity at the Crossroads of Cultures” gathered researchers from all over the world at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome last week.

[...]
That's a good photo of Professor Brock.

UPDATE: Just noticed that that "photo" is actually a video interview. Better yet.

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Larsen on Gospels Before the Book

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Gospels Before the Book (Matthew Larsen). This is the title of a new book by Dr. Larsen. In this essay he adapts material from it. Excerpt:
The evidence, I argue, suggests a first- or second-century reader of the textual traditions we now call the Gospel according to Matthew and Gospel according to Mark would not have thought of them as two separate books by two different authors. Rather they would have regarded them as the same open-ended, unfinished, and living work: the gospel—textualized. Thus, the validity and utility of source-, redaction-, and textual-criticism as traditionally practiced are called into question. For example, what does it mean to talk about the “Synoptic Problem” without recourse to ideas like books, authors, and textual finality?
Interesting.

For a rather different view of such matters, see this recent blog post, with links, by Larry Hurtado: More on Rethinking the Textual Transmission of the Gospels.

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Is the U.K. leaving UNESCO too?

DOMINOES FALLING? UK to quit Unesco? Proposals for Britain to follow Israel and US in leaving the UN body (The Week).
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt is urging fellow Cabinet ministers to back plans to withdraw the UK’s £11.1m funding from Unesco, according to reports.

“Mordaunt’s department ranks Unesco as its worst-performing multilateral agency,” says The Times. “She believes that its work does not meet her spending criteria for international aid.”

[...]
This article also gives an update on the current state-of-play regarding the plans of Israel and the United States to withdraw from UNESCO as of 31 December 2018.

I hope this does not happen. Since Audrey Azoulay took over as UNESCO chief, she has been making a real effort to reach a better understanding with Israel and the U.S.A. But paradoxically, this new move by Secretary Mordaunt may strengthen Ms. Azoulay's hand, since it puts UNESCO under yet more pressure.

It would not surprise me if a deal emerges just before the end of the year which keeps all three countries in UNESCO. Let's hope so. But I think we'll be seeing some brinksmanship before that happens.

For background of the falling out of Israel and the United States with UNESCO, start here and follow the links.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Jesus on an ancient church wall in the Negev

DECORATIVE ART: 'Suddenly I Saw Eyes': Jesus’ Face Discovered in Ancient Israeli Desert Church. Very little early Christian art has survived the centuries in the Holy Land – but then an Israeli art historian looked at the apse of a ruined Byzantine church in Shivta, and saw Jesus’ face and short curly hair (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz premium).
Precious little early Christian art has survived in the Holy Land, though this is where the religion itself was born. But now, an extremely rare depiction of Jesus from the early Christian era has been found in the ruins of Shivta, a large Byzantine farming village in the heart of Israel’s Negev desert.

“His face is right there, looking at us,” says Dr. Emma Maayan-Fanar, the art historian who finally noticed the wall painting a century after it was uncovered.

A first painting found by others in Shivta last year turned out to show Jesus’ transfiguration: the present team was the one to realize what the painting showed, but the drawing of his face did not survive the centuries. The second one shows his baptism and his face. Maayan-Fanar and the team – Dr. Ravit Linn, Dr. Yotam Tepper and Prof. Guy Bar-Oz of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa – described the find in the world archaeological journal Antiquity: "Christ's face revealed at Shivta".

[...]
To my unpracticed eye the new wall depiction of Jesus looks like one of those "Jesus on a piece of toast" pictures that surface constantly on the internet. But I'm sure the art historians looking at the original wall can see it better than I can. I'm happy to take their word for it.

The article also reports that the earliest surviving drawing of Jesus is from a third-century church at Dura Europos. There is a photo.

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The Talmud on the Temple's measuring cups

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Vesselmania. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic scholars grapple with the number of sacrificial measuring cups in the First Temple.
In Chapter Ten of Menachot, the rabbis ask how these precise measurements were actually made in the Temple. It stands to reason that there must have been measuring bowls or cups—but how many, and in what denominations? This is one of those prosaic questions that brings home the magnitude of what was lost with the destruction of the Temple. Precisely because measuring cups were such humble, ordinary tools, there is no record of them anywhere for the rabbis to rely on. Instead, here as with many other facets of Temple ritual, they must recreate the past using the only resources available to them: oral tradition, which is full of disagreements and contradictions, and the text of the Torah, which is often silent about matters of detail. Finding or inventing an answer out of these meager resources is what the Talmud is all about.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Review of Elledge, Resurrection of the Dead in Early Judaism

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Resurrection of the Dead in Early Judaism (Karen Connor McGugan).
C. D. Elledge, Resurrection of the Dead in Early Judaism, 200 BCE—CE 200. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.
Excerpt:
While early Jewish evidence for resurrection is often considered primarily as a stage in the linear development of resurrection belief as it eventually emerged in Rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity, Elledge provides in-depth analysis of this evidence in its own right; later evidence is considered largely as it illuminates the early Jewish materials.
I noted the book and a related essay by the author here.

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Does one letter show that John used an apocryphal gospel?

THE ETC BLOG: Apocryphal Gospels and Textual Criticism: An Interesting Case of P.Egerton 2 + P.Köln VI 255 (Peter Malik). Paleography is important. Sometimes a single letter can make a big difference.

For a similar story involving one Hebrew letter in a Dead Sea Scroll, see here.

Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

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Monday, November 12, 2018

The Nazareth inscription, the collector, and the empty tomb?

GREEK EPIGRAPHY: The Emperor and the Empty Tomb: An Ancient Inscription, an Eccentric Scholar, and the Human Need to Touch the Past (Kyle Harper, LA Review of Books).
The Nazareth inscription is a block of marble, about two feet tall, a foot wide, and two inches deep. The first of its 22 lines of text, carved in slightly irregular Greek letters, announces an “Edict of Caesar.” The text itself bears telltale signs of translation from the original Latin, the language of Rome’s empire. In the body of the law, the emperor demanded that tombs and graves remain forever undisturbed. No one was permitted to remove a buried body. The emperor warned that anyone removing a corpse from the grave would be charged with tomb robbery, to be treated as a capital offense equal to public sacrilege. Judged only by its content, the inscription would be an interesting enough document in the history of Roman rule. But in Froehner’s private inventory, he noted that the inscription was “sent from Nazareth in 1878.” The intrigue is obvious. Nazareth is famous for only one thing. Did the inscription have something to do with the controversy over that empty tomb? Could it suggest that a Roman emperor was aware, however dimly, of unsettling claims about a crucified man rising from the dead in a remote province of his far-flung empire? If so, the inscription might stand as the oldest physical trace of the world’s largest religion — an echo of the early Christian story, bouncing off the hard surface of Rome’s power.
Or maybe not. Who knows?

In any case, this is a fascinating story about collectors in the nineteenth century and one of their more interesting finds. Also, Charles Clermont-Ganneau, the French Indiana Jones of that century, makes an appearance. Of course he does.

Worth reading in full.

For the Rylands Papyrus P52 of the Gospel of John, see here and links. It is questionable that it is as early as the early second century, although that remains a possibility. There are many, many past PaleoJudaica posts on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife. You can find them in the archives. For key posts, see here, here, and here, and links. And for many posts on the James Ossuary, again see the archives, or start here and follow the links.

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Publisher's takeaways from Septuaginta

HENDRICKSEN PUBLISHERS BLOG: Five Takeaways from Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition (Tirzah Frank). More on the recently released book, Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition, edited by Gregory R. Lanier & William A. Ross.

Background here and links.

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Zohar book panel discussion

H-JUDAIC: The Art of Mystical Narrative: A Zohar Symposium.
The Art of Mystical Narrative: A Zohar Symposium

The Jewish Theological Seminary
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
7:30–9:00 P.M.


Join us for a panel discussion, marking the publication of Dr. Eitan Fishbane’s new book The Art of Mystical Narrative: A Poetics of the Zohar<(Oxford University Press, 2018), in conversation with ...


Attendance is free, but advance registration is required.

Cross-file under Zohar Watch and New Book.

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Klawans, "After the Pittsburgh Tragedy"

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: After the Pittsburgh Tragedy. Like any other week (Jonathan Klawans).

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

How to Make a Mudbrick

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: How to Make a Mudbrick. Get a step by step look at the process. With lots of photos from the Tell Timai excavation. Cross-file under News You Can Use.

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Festschrift for Aren M. Maeir

NEW BOOK FROM ZAPHON PRESS:
Tell it in Gath
Studies in the History and Archaeology of Israel
Essays in Honor of Aren M. Maeir on the Occasion of his Sixtieth Birthday


Edited by Itzhaq Shai, Jeffrey R. Chadwick, Louise Hitchcock, Amit Dagan, Chris McKinny, and Joe Uziel

Ägypten und Altes Testament 90
2018
ISBN 978-3-96327-032-1
XVI + 1093 pages / DIN A4 / hardcover, thread stitching
book + e-book (ISBN 978-3-96327-033-8): 250,00 €, on request
Follow the link for TOC and ordering information. More on Professor Maeir here.

HT Jim West.

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Ancient coins seized at Gaza border

APPREHENDED: Smuggler caught at Gaza border with coins from time of Alexander the Great. Palestinian man was attempting to take two ‘rare, highly prized’ tetradrachm coins, imprinted in Babylon and northern Greece between 323 and 325 BCE, out of territory (Times of Israel). There was another report of foiled coin-smuggling, this one at the Allenby Bridge crossing, earlier this week.

Cross-file under Numismatics.

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Interview with Jacob Neusner's son

THE LOGOS ACADEMIC BLOG: A Son’s Perspective on a Scholar Father: Interview with Noam Neusner (Tavis Bohlinger).

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Greer, Hilber, and Walton (eds.), Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament

NEW BOOK FROM BAKER ACADEMIC PRESS: Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament (New Book) (A.D. Riddle, The Bible Places Blog).
Available beginning today is an impressive-looking title published by Baker Academic, Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts, edited by Jonathan S. Greer, John W. Hilber, and John H. Walton.
Follow the link for details and the TOC.

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Did the Carthaginians bring the mongoose to Spain?

PUNIC WATCH? How the mongoose got to Spain. Not all introduced species are unwelcome ("Rikkus Tikkus Tavius," The Economist). Just for fun.

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How did Esau become the ancestor of Rome?

DR. MALKA Z. SIMKOVICH: Esau the Ancestor of Rome (TheTorah.com).
In the Bible, Esau is the ancestor of the Edomites who live on Mount Seir, southwest of Judah. So how did the rabbis come to associate Esau and Edom with Rome? Two main factors are at work here: Christianity and Herod.
For more on Dr. Simkovich's work, see here and links.

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Allen and Dunne (eds.), Ancient Readers and their Scriptures

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Ancient Readers and their Scriptures
Engaging the Hebrew Bible in Early Judaism and Christianity


Series:
Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity, Volume: 107

Editors: Garrick Allen and John Anthony Dunne

explores the various ways that ancient Jewish and Christian writers engaged with and interpreted the Hebrew Bible in antiquity, focusing on physical mechanics of rewriting and reuse, modes of allusion and quotation, texts and text forms, text collecting, and the development of interpretative traditions. Contributions examine the use of the Hebrew Bible and its early versions in a variety of ancient corpora, including the Septuagint, Dead Sea Scrolls, New Testament, and Rabbinic works, analysing the vast array of textual permutations that define ancient engagement with Jewish scripture. This volume argues that the processes of reading and cognition, influenced by the physical and intellectual contexts of interpretation, are central aspects of ancient biblical interpretation that are underappreciated in current scholarship.

Publication Date: 8 October 2018
ISBN: 978-90-04-38337-1
This is a volume of essays from a conference that was held at the University of St. Andrews in 2014. I noted it here and here. The two editors are PhD alumni of the Divinity School of the University of St. Andrews.

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Friday, November 09, 2018

Shoemaker, The Apocalypse of Empire

NEW BOOK FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA PRESS:
The Apocalypse of Empire
Imperial Eschatology in Late Antiquity and Early Islam


Stephen J. Shoemaker


272 pages | 6 x 9
Cloth Nov 2018 | ISBN 9780812250404 | $59.95s | Outside the Americas £46.00

In The Apocalypse of Empire, Stephen J. Shoemaker argues that earliest Islam was a movement driven by urgent eschatological belief that focused on the conquest, or liberation, of the biblical Holy Land and situates this belief within a broader cultural environment of apocalyptic anticipation. Shoemaker looks to the Qur'an's fervent representation of the imminent end of the world and the importance Muhammad and his earliest followers placed on imperial expansion. Offering important contemporary context for the imperial eschatology that seems to have fueled the rise of Islam, he surveys the political eschatologies of early Byzantine Christianity, Judaism, and Sasanian Zoroastrianism at the advent of Islam and argues that they often relate imperial ambition to beliefs about the end of the world. Moreover, he contends, formative Islam's embrace of this broader religious trend of Mediterranean late antiquity provides invaluable evidence for understanding the beginnings of the religion at a time when sources are generally scarce and often highly problematic.

Scholarship on apocalyptic literature in early Judaism and Christianity frequently maintains that the genre is decidedly anti-imperial in its very nature. While it may be that early Jewish apocalyptic literature frequently displays this tendency, Shoemaker demonstrates that this quality is not characteristic of apocalypticism at all times and in all places. In the late antique Mediterranean as in the European Middle Ages, apocalypticism was regularly associated with ideas of imperial expansion and triumph, which expected the culmination of history to arrive through the universal dominion of a divinely chosen world empire. This imperial apocalypticism not only affords an invaluable backdrop for understanding the rise of Islam but also reveals an important transition within the history of Western doctrine during late antiquity.

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Supernatural conference CFP

THE ESEA BLOG: CFP: THE SUPERNATURAL FROM ANTIQUITY TO THE MEDIEVAL PERIOD.
Not Yet Understood:
The Supernatural from Antiquity to the Medieval Period

*Graduate Student Conference*
Where: Brandeis University (Massachusetts)
When: April 13, 2019
Deadline for submissions: January 31, 2019.
Follow the link for details.

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Bibliography of the Arabic Bible

THE AWOL BLOG: Bibliography of the Arabic Bible: A Classified and Annotated History of Scholarship. This is associated with the Biblia Arabica project, which I mentioned a while ago here.

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Silver as money before coins

TZILLA ESHEL: How Silver Was Used for Payment (TheTorah.com).
Abraham purchases the cave of Machpelah for 400 silver shekels. Biblical phrases, archaeological finds, and chemical analysis come together to paint a portrait of how early trade using silver functioned before the invention of coins.

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Thursday, November 08, 2018

Nautical and animal engravings found in Beer Sheva cistern

GRAFFITI ART: ANCIENT ENGRAVINGS OF SHIPS AND ANIMALS UNCOVERED IN BEERSHEBA. Excavators discovered large cistern while preparing for a new neighborhood (Tamara Zieve, Jerusalem Post).
In the plaster covering the cistern walls, the excavators, Dr. Davida Eisenberg-Degen and Avishay Levi-Hevroni of the authority, spotted thinly engraved lines. Though many of the lines have become less visible over time, they could make out the depictions of boats, a sailor and animals. Thirteen ships were engraved in the plaster of the cistern walls.

According to Eisenberg-Degen, a specialist in rock art and graffiti at the authority, the ships include technical details and present proportions which suggest that the artist was knowledgeable in ship construction.
The cistern was constructed in the first or second century C.E. The IAA announcement implies that the graffiti are the same age as the cistern.

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Jesus, the Essenes, and modern esotericism

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Jesus and the Essenes: An Esoteric History

Like the historical Jesus, “the Essenes” can easily become a screen upon which one projects one’s own interests and ideological location(s), whether that be Jesus’ “hidden years,” a window into the “secret history” of early Christianity, or an historically non-existent fabrication by Philo, Josephus, and Pliny.

See Also: Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins: New Light on Ancient Texts and Communities (Baylor University Press, 2018).

By Simon J. Joseph
University of California, Los Angeles
www.simonjjoseph.com
November 2018
Cross-file under New Book. For past PaleoJudaica posts on Szekely's modern apocryphal gospel, The Essene Gospel of Peace, see here and here. And for more on the use of ancient esotericism in Blavatsky's Theosophy, see here.

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Picus on rabbinic reading practices

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight | Daniel Picus.
“I argue that that the rabbis are deeply concerned with the form, format, and divisions of the biblical text, and that these aspects of the text have a crucial role in rabbinic understandings of the formation and transformation of the reader.”
This sounds like an interesting dissertation. It would be good to know its title too!

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Judean and related coins going to auction

NUMISMATICS: Extremely Rare Judaean and Related Roman Coins Featured in Goldberg’s New York Sale (Goldberg Coins, CoinWeek). The auction takes place in New York on 8-10 January 2019. As always, I hope that the collectors who buy them will make them available to scholars for study. Meanwhile, this article has some excellent photos of a wide range of coins of interest for the study of ancient Judaism

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Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Hygoye 21.2 (2018)

A NEW ISSUE: Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 21.2 (2018). This is a high-quality, peer-review, open-access journal. Issue 21.1 was noted here. Cross-file under Syriac Watch.

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Hurtado on Goodman on Paul as persecutor

LARRY HURTADO: Saul/Paul the “Persecutor” and Jewish Tolerance of Diversity.
On Monday of this week ([October] 22nd) the esteemed scholar of ancient Judaism in the Roman world, Professor Martin Goodman, delivered the 2018 Kennedy-Wright Lecture, sponsored by our Centre for the Study of Christian Origins: “The Jewish Paul and the History of Judaism.”

[...]
It's good to see Larry blogging frequently again.

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Lectures on the Jewish communities of Qumran and Alexandria

PROF. LAWRENCE H. SCHIFFMAN: SECTS AND THE CITY: THE JEWISH COMMUNITIES OF QUMRAN AND ALEXANDRIA.
Co-sponsored by Drisha, The Jewish Publication Society and Sixth Street Community Synagogue
November 29th, 7:00 PM
Sixth Street Community Synagogue
325 East Sixth Street

$10/students free of charge.

Please join us for an evening to celebrate the publication of Dr. Malka Z. Simkovich’s new book, Discovering Second Temple Literature: The Scriptures and Stories That Shaped Early Judaism (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2018).
Follow the link for further details and registration information. And cross-file under New Book. I have noted essays by Dr. Simkovich here, here, and here.

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‘Atiqot 92 (2018)

THE AWOL BLOG: Now online: ‘Atiqot 92 (2018). You can see the abstracts straightaway, but full access to the articles requires free registration. This issue has many articles of interest for ancient Judaism.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The Talmud on sacrificial oil

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Oil Change. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, discussion of proper meal offerings displays the circularity and uncertainty of rituals recreated from a destroyed culture.
One of the things that makes studying Talmud difficult is that the text takes a lot of prior knowledge for granted. After all, the Talmud was not written as a manual of Judaism, designed to instruct people how to reconstitute it from scratch. Rather, it takes the form of questions and debates that arose from daily practice. In the case of Tractate Menachot, for example, priests in the Temple did not need to consult a text to learn how to bring meal offerings; they saw it happening every day and learned by doing. It follows that the tractate does not begin by explaining what a meal offering consists of, how it is prepared, or how it is sacrificed.

[...]
Yes. More on the mindset of rabbinic literature here. And Adam is quite right in his conclusions. The Talmud, and even the Mishnah, were composed long after living memory of the Temple service had passed away. A lot of what they say is inference and guesswork.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Review of Blanton, A Spiritual Economy

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | A Spiritual Economy: Gift Exchange in the Letters of Paul of Tarsus (Jennifer Quigley).
Thomas R. Blanton, IV. A Spiritual Economy: Gift Exchange in the Letters of Paul of Tarsus. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017
Excerpt:
A Spiritual Economy is a helpful addition to recent studies in gifts in the letters of Paul, and its multidisciplinary engagement contributes to the study of religion in antiquity and to broader conversations in history, sociology, and anthropology about gift exchange.

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Bauckham (ed.), Magdala of Galilee

IN THE MAIL:
Magdala of Galilee
A Jewish City in the Hellenistic and Roman Period

by Richard Bauckham [ed.]

[Baylor University Press]
460 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in

HARDCOVER
ISBN: 9781481302937
PUBLISHED: OCTOBER 2018
$79.95

Magdala of Galilee for the first time unifies the results of various excavations of the Galilean city. Here, archaeologists and historians of the Second Temple Period work together to understand the site and its significance to profile Galilee and the region around the lake in the Early Roman period.

After a comprehensive overview of the history and character of the city, the volume details the harbor, the domestic and mercantile sectors, the Jewish ritual baths, and the synagogue, with its unique and remarkable engraved stone. There is also a full study of Magdala’s fishing industry, which dominated fishing on the lake, and the production of salted fish. The rabbinic traditions about Magdala are fully investigated for the first time, and a study of Josephus’ account of the city’s role in the Jewish revolt is also included. The in-depth archaeological, historical, and literary analyses are enriched by a wealth of on-site photographs, regional maps, and excavation plans.

Edited by Richard Bauckham, this cutting-edge synthesis of international field work and scholarly study brings the City of Fish and its place in Jewish history and culture into sharp relief, providing both specialists and general readers with a richer understanding of the background of early Judaism and Christianity.
A copy kindly sent to me by the editor. I mentioned the book as forthcoming last year.

For many past PaleoJudaica posts on the site of Magdala, especially the famous Magdala Stone, start here and here and follow the links.

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

70 ancient coins seized at Allenby Bridge crossing

APPREHENDED: Smuggling Reportedly Thwarted at Allenby Bridge (reported by TPS / Tazpit News Agency via the Jewish Press).
Among the items recovered were Roman coins, coins from the Bar Kochba Revolt and gold coins from the early Islamic period.

According to an expert, it’s estimated that these ancient coins were minted in the 5th or 6th century BCE in Greece, Cyprus and Antalya, and are among the first in the world.
The coins mentioned would not be that old by some centuries or more. And the Bar Kokhba coins were minted in Israel. Either there is a misunderstanding about what the expert said, or he or she was referring to other coins in the hoard, not mentioned above.

Cross-file under Numismatics.

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Monday, November 05, 2018

Bodmer Papyri online

VARIANT READINGS: Images of the Bodmer Papyri Online (Brent Nongbri).
I’m happy to announce that as part of the ongoing work of the Bodmer Lab, images of the Greek and Coptic manuscripts from Egypt held at the Fondation Martin Bodmer are now available online. The website remains a work in progress, but the bulk of the images are now available, and the site is live.
I had a quick look at the current image archive. It includes Coptic fragments from the New Testament, Old Testament, and the Gnostic Zostrianos text, plus Greek fragments from the New Testament and Homer. And more.

One suggestion. It would be really helpful to have a brief contents description with each thumbnail photo.

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More on that earliest abcedary(?) ever

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
As Easy as ABC?: A Review of Thomas Schneider’s Study of the TT99 Ostracon

Schneider’s work advances the discussion of the TT99 ostracon in several important ways. His suggestion that the entries on the ostracon formed a mnemonic verse that could contain grammatical elements is both persuasive and helpful. But, at the same time, his claim that the back of the ostracon lists Semitic words arranged according to the abgad alphabetic sequence suffers from several problems.

By Aren M. Wilson-Wright
Postdoctoral Researcher
University of Zurich
October 2018
This discussion is outside my expertise and I take no position on who, if anyone, is right. The main takeaway for me is that this inscription is so difficult that experts can propose that one side contains two rather different alphabetic sequences of words.

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

Oaths by and on Scripture

DR. MOSHE BILDSTEIN: Taking an Oath While Holding a Torah Scroll (TheGemara.com).
In late Second Temple times, a person would take an oath by verbally invoking the Torah. Over time, with the emergence of the Torah as a sacred object for Jews and Christians alike, Torah scrolls began to be used in court-administered oaths.

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You didn't know this about Freddie Mercury

ANCIENT, BUT STILL AROUND: Freddie Mercury’s family faith: The ancient religion of Zoroastrianism (Vasudha Narayanan, The Conversation).

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Sunday, November 04, 2018

SBL Christian Apocrypha sessions

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Christian Apocrypha at SBL 2018 (Tony Burke, Apocryphicity Blog). The papers are mostly on New Testament Apocrypha. But the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha receive some attention.

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

Oqimta CFP

H-JUDAIC: CFP: Oqimta Online Journal for Talmudic and Rabbinic Literature.
Oqimta centers on the classical rabbinic corpus (Tannaitic and Amoraic literature), but we also welcome contributions on other aspects of late ancient Jewish culture and history (e.g., piyyut, magical texts, art, inscriptions), as well as on the reception of rabbinic literature in the medieval and modern periods. We are committed to the highest academic standards, and at the same time we believe that the field can be studied productively with a variety of perspectives and methods – philological or historical; employing literary theory, anthropology, or intellectual frameworks through which the field has not yet been explored; focusing on rabbinic texts themselves or working across the different traditions and cultures of antiquity.
Oqimta: Studies in Talmudic and Rabbinic Literature is a free, open-access, peer-review journal that has been running since 2009. I noted its inception here and have also mentioned it here and here. Cross-file under Talmud Watch.

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A day-trip in the Judean hills

TRAVEL: Ancient springs and stunning vistas: A desert day trip just outside Jerusalem. Biblical history and vibrant nature abound in the Judean hills, where visitors can bathe in an ancient oasis and walk in the footsteps of the Good Samaritan (AVIVA AND SHMUEL BAR-AM, Times of Israel). Be aware that these sites are on the West Bank, with the attendant political complications and controversy.

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Review of Kutz and Josberger, Learning Biblical Hebrew

READING ACTS: Book Review: Karl V. Kutz and Rebekah Josberger, Learning Biblical Hebrew (Phil Long).
Kutz, Karl V. and Rebekah Josberger. Learning Biblical Hebrew: Reading for Comprehension: An Introductory Grammar. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2018. 417 pp.; Hb. $39.99
Excerpt:
Kutz is professor of Biblical Languages and Josberger is an associate professor of Old Testament, but at Multnomah University. Their collaboration for a new first year biblical Hebrew primer reflects their experience in the classroom. As they say in the preface, this grammar is “aggressive” and assumes the use of Hebrew resources available to students of the Old Testament. ...
I'm not sure what an "aggressive" Hebrew grammar means. But I think I like it.

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Saturday, November 03, 2018

The Hasmonean rulers and Hellenism

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Hasmonean Rulers Between Piety and Luxury. The dilemma of the Jewish dynasty in Hellenistic Judea (Marek Dospěl).
In his article “The Hasmonean Kings–Jewish or Hellenistic?” in the November/December 2018 issue of BAR, Eyal Regev of Bar-Ilan University takes a close look at how aspects of Hellenism played out in Hellenistic Judea, specifically under the Jewish dynasty of Hasmonean kings.
As usual, the BAR article is behind the subscription wall, but this essay gives a summary of it.

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Photos of the Umm el-Kanatir synagogue

THE HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: One of the Best Preserved Ancient Synagogues in Israel (Carl Rasmussen). The ancient synagogue at Umm el-Kanatir (a.k.a. Ein Keshatot or Keshatot Rechavam) has been in the news lately. Carl shares his good photo archive with us, along with some links.

Background here and links.

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Rault, L’Hymnaire manichéen chinois

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
L’Hymnaire manichéen chinois Xiabuzan 下部讚 à l’usage des Auditeurs
un manuscrit trouvé à Dunhuang, traduit, commenté et annoté


Series:
Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies, Volume: 94

Author: Lucie Rault

L’Hymnaire manichéen chinois presents a collection of twenty-five hymns that were intended for the Manichean religious practice of the class of Auditors. The scroll, which came to light in the early twentieth century in the province of Dunhuang (modern Ganzu) after lying buried for around twelve centuries, contains several hymns transcribed from a variety of languages that were current in Central Asia during the epoch of its redaction. This translation provides a new perspective on the Religion of Light as it was adopted in China, and on the wide reach of the message of the Iranian prophet Mani (216-276) that aimed at universal scope and was meant to unite people from all parts of the world, of whatever origin, language and history.
See Less
Publication Date: 25 October 2018
ISBN: 978-90-04-36861-3
In French.

For more on the manuscript discoveries at Dunhuang, China, start here and follow the links. Cross-file under Manichean Watch (Manichaean Watch).

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On the DSS

A REMINDER: The Dead Sea Scrolls are a priceless link to the Bible’s past (Daniel Falk, The Conversation). This is a good, brief overview of the Scrolls and their importance, aimed at novices. It is inspired by recent events involving forged scroll fragments at the Museum of the Bible.

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Friday, November 02, 2018

Curious Hebrew spelling in a Geniza fragment

GENIZA FRAGMENT OF THE MONTH (OCTOBER 2018): The strange Hebrew of a blessing for the Prophets: T-S K6.113 (Nadia Vidro).
Biblical verses used in medieval texts of various genres often exhibit spellings different from those of the Masoretic text. The majority of these deviations are relatively minor and involve the plene spelling of vowels that are written defectively in the biblical text. Recently, I came across a curious text consisting of three biblical verses written with drastic deviations from the standard biblical spelling. The text, preserved in T-S K6.113, fol. 2v, contains a blessing for the reading of the haftarah. It is entitled ‘the blessing for the Prophets’ and made up of Hosea 12:11, Amos 3:7, Isaiah 59:21. The text is written in a careful hand that makes the impression of being not very experienced in writing Hebrew.

[...]
What follows is technical. But it's a fun little mystery, if you like that sort of thing.

Past posts noting Cairo Geniza Fragments of the Month in the Cambridge University Library's Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit are here and links.

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

Moss on anti-Semitic use of the Bible

CANDIDA MOSS: How Bigots Easily Exploit the Bible for Anti-Semitism. In a debate about what drove the Tree of Life synagogue, Robert Bowers himself squarely grounds his perspective in the Bible (The Daily Beast).
Mark Leuchter, a professor of religion and Judaism at Temple University agrees. “Once the New Testament became holy specifically to Christians, the original context for [the] debate was lost.” Statements from the New Testament “became [for some] the justification for anti-Jewish violence and hatred… and are still used to facilitate anti-Jewish bigotry in ways that many Christians don’t even realize.” As evidence of this subtle bias Leuchter cited the use of the term “Pharisee” by “well-meaning Christians” as an insult against people obsessed with law, when the historical Pharisees were actually more like ancient liberal activists. Examples like this contribute to what Leuchter calls a “cartoon version of Judaism that is presented as devoid of morality, holiness or humane values.”
Unfortunately, the misuse of the term "Pharisee" remains common. I have been pointing it out for years. See the posts collected here.

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F. M. Cross on publishing unprovenanced inscriptions

VARIANT READINGS: An Old Quote from Frank Moore Cross on Unprovenanced Artifacts (Brent Nongbri). I agree that this quote has not aged well, although I am not going to judge it comprehensively without seeing all of it in context. The quoted extracts are from a 2005 article that is behind the BAR subscription wall. I don't have access to the full text.

I agree with Cross that we shouldn't dismiss unprovenanced inscriptions solely because they are unprovenanced. But, as I have been saying for some time, I think we should assume they are forgeries unless a credible case is made for their being genuine. And doing that is getting harder as forgers become more skilled.

(In the past I have said a "convincing" case. I think a better word, as above, is "credible." Scholars may agree that a case is credible — that is, based on solid evidence and supported by reasonable arguments — even if sometimes they are not fully convinced by it. By "credible" I mean a case that passes peer review.)

There has traditionally been an unfriendly rivalry between epigraphers and "dirt archaeologists." That is unfortunate. I hope that these days we have gotten past it. Both are critical for recovering knowledge about antiquity.

I am open to the idea of the IAA selling duplicate artifacts (e.g., potsherds and even pots), which they have in profusion, rather than just warehousing them. An argument in favor is that doing so would undercut much of the antiquities black market. An argument against is that advances in technology may someday allow us to extract useful information from those duplicates, so archaeologists should retain access to them. There may be some workable compromise.

I am not an expert on the antiquities market, so I have no opinion about Cross's proposal to shut down licensed antiquities dealers. It would be interesting to listen to experts debate the question.

Full disclosure: Frank Cross was my doctoral supervisor.

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Biblical Studies Carnival 152

THE PURSUING VERITAS BLOG: October 2018 Biblical Studies Carnival (Jacob J. Prahlow).

There are still no volunteers for 2019 Biblical Studies Carnivals. Contact Phil Long if you are interested.

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Thursday, November 01, 2018

Was Jeroboam a pagan or a Yahwist?

WERE THE "IDOLS" JUST AN ARTISTIC STATEMENT? Israelites in Biblical Dan Worshipped Idols – and Yahweh Too, Archaeologists Discover. Finds in the northern biblical city of Dan suggest that even if King Jeroboam pushed worship of golden calves and goat demons to spite Jerusalem, there was a big YHWH temple (Philippe Bohstrom, Haaretz premium).
The Ten Tribes living in the Kingdom of Israel during the 8th century B.C.E. practiced a mixed religion, but contrary to the conventional wisdom among biblical scholars, their main deity was Yahweh after all, not the Canaanite god El and his envoys, golden calves and goat-shaped demons.

New excavations headed by Dr. David Ilan and Dr. Yifat Thareani of the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem discovered that Dan also housed Arameans and Phoenicians as well as Israelites. But the gigantic sanctuary, originally found over four decades ago, has the hallmarks of Yahwistic practice, not pagan ritual.

[...]
This article gives what looks like a thorough overview of the archaeology of the sanctuary excavated at Tel Dan. And note those cool inscriptions.

It also has a pretty good discussion of the state of the question concerning the religion of Jeroboam I in the context of that sanctuary, but it leaves out something quite important.

Frank Moore Cross argued that Jeroboam set out to differentiate his YHWH cult from the southern (Jerusalemite) YHWH cult in various ways, including iconography. Cross thought that there were two iconographic representations of the seat of YHWH: in one (Jeroboam's at Bethel and Dan) he sat on bulls; in the other (the Jerusalem Temple) he sat on cherub — winged human-headed lions. Both are attested as ancient Canaanite iconographies.

So by his interpretation, Jeroboam was a Yahwist, he just represented the celestial mythology of YHWH in a different way from in the south. The golden calves were mythological art, but art associated with a YHWH cult, not a pagan one.

The Hebrew Bible, in both the Deuteronomistic History and in the Book of Chronicles, represents Jeroboam's cult as a pagan one in which the golden calves were idols to be worshipped. But these texts were written by Jerusalemites who has every reason to misunderstand (or, less charitably, misrepresent) the memory of what their northern rival was up to.

These new archaeological indications that the sanctuary in Dan was Yahwistic offer at least some confirmation for Cross's hypothesis. Watch this space ...

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Was ancient Israel really a patriarchy?

PROF. CAROL MEYERS: The Shunammite Woman and the Patriarchy Problem (TheTorah.com).
Virtually all biblical scholars—even feminist biblical scholars––consider the Bible and ancient Israelite society patriarchal.[1] But is that a valid designation?

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Report on Bethsaida/et-Tell excavation 2018

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Bethsaida Excavation Project: Season 2018

By Rami Arav
University of Nebraska
October 2018

During 2018 we conducted a two week season of excavations at Bethsaida. The purpose of this season of excavations was to obtain more data on both the Stratum VI city gate (11th – 10th centuries BCE) and about the Roman temple at the peak of the mound.

[...]
Regular PaleoJudaica readers, you will recall that there are two contending sites for ancient Bethsaida. The two excavation teams both refer confidently to their site as "Bethsaida." This can make for some confusion.

The report linked to above is on the site of et-Tell (e-Tell) but it only uses the name Bethsaida. More on the et-Tell excavation is here and links.

The other contender is el-Araj, on which more here and, again, follow that trail of links.

I am not an archaeologist and I take no position on who is right.

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