Saturday, April 14, 2018

Interview with Geoffrey Khan

INTERACTION OF TRADITIONS BLOG: Interview with Dr Geoffrey Khan (Srecko Koralija).
I am very pleased to publish an interview with Dr Geoffrey Khan, an expert in the field of Semitic studies, and the Regius Professor of Hebrew at the University of Cambridge.

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Review of Marciak, Sophene, Gordyene, and Adiabene

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Michal Marciak, Sophene, Gordyene, and Adiabene: Three 'Regna Minora' of Northern Mesopotamia between East and West. Impact of empire, 26. Leiden: Brill, 2017. Pp. xv, 581. ISBN 9789004350700. $184.00. Reviewed by David Woods, University College Cork (
This book is a result of research funded by the National Science Centre in Poland and conducted at the University of Rzeszów from 2012 to 2015. It does exactly what the title suggests, discussing the geography and history of the three neighbouring regions of Sophene, Gordyene, and Adiabene in northern Mesopotamia during the period from about 200 BC to about AD 600. There is no single, overarching argument, and the result is essentially a reference work for anyone interested in the development of these regions. Many of the chapters have already been published in a variety of academic journals during the period from 2011 to 2016. However, the journals were sometimes relatively obscure, and it is good to have revised versions of the original papers drawn together to form a larger, coherent whole. The author draws upon a wide range of literary sources in a number of languages, primarily in Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Armenian. He also draws upon a wide range of material sources and the latest archaeological data. The result is an indispensable tool for anyone interested in the geography and history of northern Mesopotamia.

The material on Adibene (modern day Erbil) will be of particular interest to PaleoJudaica readers. The ruler of the kingdom of Adiabene, Queen Helena, converted to Judaism in the first century CE. Background here and links.

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Soar over Masada

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: Soar Over a Legendary Fortress in the Judean Desert. This remote palace complex of Masada looks as dramatic as the stories behind it (Abby Sewell). Nice video and a good summary essay to go with it.

For some relevant PaleoJudaica posts on Masada, see here and links. For another flyover video of Masada, see here.

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PBS documentary on Hannibal

PUNIC WATCH: How (and Where) Did Hannibal Cross the Alps? Experts Finally Have Answers (Mindy Weisberger, Live Science).
For over 2,000 years, historians have argued over the route used by the Carthaginian general Hannibal to guide his army — 30,000 soldiers, 37 elephants and 15,000 horses — over the Alps and into Italy in just 16 days, conducting a military ambush against the Romans that was unprecedented in the history of warfare.

Such an achievement required careful planning and strategizing, but with little physical evidence of the journey available today and few recorded details of the crossing, uncertainty remains about how it was accomplished.

However, in "Secrets of the Dead: Hannibal in the Alps," a new documentary airing on PBS tonight (April 10), a team of experts takes a fresh look at Hannibal’s incredible trip across treacherous mountain terrain. Together, they re-create his long-lost route and reveal the latest discoveries about his historic accomplishment — and depict the famous elephants that played a critical part in his victory against the Romans.

For more on the coprological evidence for Hannibal's route, see here. There are many past PaleoJudaica posts on Hannibal and his campaign in the Second Punic War. For some of them see that post, plus here, here, here, here, and here, and follow the links

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Adele Reinhartz is breaking up with John

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Reflections on My Journey with John | A Retrospective from Adele Reinhartz.
I am grateful to the editors of Ancient Jew Review for the opportunity to reflect on my long engagement with the Gospel of John. The invitation comes at an appropriate moment: I have just submitted a book manuscript on John, called Cast Out of the Covenant: Jews and Anti-Judaism in the Gospel of John, which will be published by Lexington/Fortress Press later this year.[1] This book concludes what is very likely my last major project on the Fourth Gospel. While I already have made commitments to several conference papers and articles on John, I do not plan another sustained book-length study. In effect, having long had a conflicted relationship with the “Beloved Disciple,”[2] – since my doctoral research in the late 1970s -- it is time to break up. For this reason, it seems like the right time to reflect on my relationship with the “other man” in my life (as my husband refers to “John”).

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Ryan on Jesus and early synagogues

Jesus and Early Synagogues

When we situate Jesus’ ministry within what we know of early synagogues and their functions, we can infer that Jesus’ teaching and proclamation would have been open to discussion and debate for the assembly to decide whether to accept or reject it, just like any other proposition put forward in a public synagogue. We must remember that public synagogues represented the town, and that the decisions made in local synagogue assemblies were thus made for the town as a whole. If Jesus could persuade the local assemblies to accept his teaching and proclamation of the outbreak of the Kingdom of God, and to repent in light of it (Mark 1:14-15), it would have been tantamount to the corporate acceptance of the proclamation by that town.

See Also: The Role of the Synagogue in the Aims of Jesus (Fortress Press, 2017).

By Jordan J. Ryan
Assistant Professor of New Testament
University of Dubuque Theological Seminary
April 2018
Cross-file under New Book.

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Review of Worthington, Ptolemy I

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Ian Worthington, Ptolemy I: King and Pharaoh of Egypt. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. Pp. xiv, 253. ISBN 9780190202330. $35.00. Reviewed by Charlotte Van Regenmortel, University of Leicester (
Of all Alexander's successors, Ptolemy is perhaps the one most worthy of a biography. Having been born into a relatively humble family, he rose to become one of Alexander's bodyguards, and eventually Pharaoh of Egypt. His life, furthermore, falls within a timespan that incorporates the early Hellenistic world's major developments. From the rise of Philip of Macedon and the campaigns of Alexander to the solidification of the Hellenistic monarchies, Ptolemy was there. With this book, Ian Worthington, an expert on the period, provides the first biography of Ptolemy I since W. M. Ellis's Ptolemy of Egypt (1994). Although the influence of Ptolemy, who is known as patron of the arts, economic innovator, and sophisticated administrator, cannot be downplayed, a full-length biography proves to be a difficult enterprise. The nature of the source material, from which Ptolemy is largely absent until the death of Alexander, is problematic when the aim is a singular focus on Ptolemy, as can be seen from this book.
Some knowledge of the Diadochoi (the "Successors" to Alexander the Great), especially Ptolemy I and Seleucus I, is important as background for Second Temple Judaism. Both are mentioned, although not named, in the Book of Daniel.

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"Holocaust" or Shoah?

BELATEDLY FOR YOM HASHOAH: The Slaughter of Six Million Jews: A Holocaust or a Shoah? (Prof. Zev Garber,
What do the terms “holocaust” and “shoah” mean, and what do they reveal about how we view the respective roles of God and the Nazis in the Jewish genocide?
Yom HaShoah/Holocaust Remembrance Day was on the 11th-12 of this month this year (27 Nisan). Another post on the question of whether "Holocaust" is an appropriate term for the slaughter of millions of Jews by the Nazis is here. Professor Garber's essay is the most thorough discussion of the issue that I can recall reading.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Was YHWH a god of metallurgy?

TIMNA AGAIN: Jewish God Yahweh Originated in Canaanite Vulcan, Says New Theory. The cult of YHWH as god of metallurgy originated among semi-nomadic copper smelters between the Bronze and Iron Age, suggests biblical scholar: And he was not worshipped only by Jews (Ariel David, Haaretz).
TIMNA – Around 3,200 years ago, the great empires around the Mediterranean and the Middle East suddenly imploded. The Egyptians retreated from Canaan and the copper mines of Timna in the Negev, skulking back to the banks of the Nile. And in the arid wastes of southern Canaan, a new power arose.
The Timna mines were taken over by semi-nomadic tribes, which set up a mining operation that dwarfed the previous Egyptian industry.

This new desert kingdom would leave its mark on the main building at Timna: the Egyptian temple of Hathor, protector of miners. The new masters smashed the effigy of the Egyptian deity – leaving the fragments to be found by archaeologists more than 3,000 years later – and set up over the ruins of the temple a tent sanctuary, judging by the remains of heavy red and yellow fabric found in the 1970s.

There they worshipped a new god, one that had no apparent name or face.

That miners' god was none other than the deity known by the four Hebrew letters YHWH, who would become the God of the Jews and, by extension, of Christians and Muslims, claims Nissim Amzallag, a biblical studies researcher at Ben-Gurion University.

Hmmm ... interesting idea. I agree that the biblical texts seem to look to the region of Timna/Edom for the earliest traditions about YHWH. But, with Professor Romer, I think the fiery imagery around YHWH has to do with his being a storm god, not with any association with a metallurgical cult.

Overall, I'm skeptical. The only way to solve the question decisively would be if we found early texts from, say, Timna. I am keeping an eye on this site in case that happens. For background to that issue, see here and follow the links. (Keep reading, the post does not seem relevant at first.)

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Review of Ogden, The Legend of Seleucus

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Daniel Ogden, The Legend of Seleucus: Kingship, Narrative and Mythmaking in the Ancient World. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Pp. xiv, 386. ISBN 9781107164789. $120.00. Reviewed by Marijn Visscher (
In this excellent book, Daniel Ogden tackles head-on a tricky, but fruitful topic in Hellenistic studies: the many stories, legends and myths surrounding the figure of Seleucus Nicator. The book consists of six thematic chapters that roughly follow the course of Seleucus’ life. The seventh, and final, chapter is a more in-depth discussion of methodology and sources. The book aims to unite and combine different narratives about Seleucus into a coherent whole, while systematically disentangling various layers of the legend. One of its strong points is the exhaustive collection and thorough discussion of the sources. Ogden not only discusses different source passages in depth, he integrates his discussion with possible typological comparanda. The most important of these is the Alexander Romance, but Ogden also looks at folk-tale motifs and other legends, from Greek and Near Eastern mythology. In addition to his careful analysis of passages, Ogden often raises more speculative questions about the material, which subsequently remain unanswered. This happens consistently throughout all chapters and seems to be a conscious choice. Many of the questions raised are tantalising, but not particularly well suited where they appear in the text, as throw-away remarks that disturb the flow of the main argument.

The Book of Daniel mentions Seleucus I, although not by name. For more on that, see here. The review does not mention the passage in Daniel, but I assume the book under review does somewhere.

For some past posts on the Seuleucid dynasty and its importance for biblical and Second Temple Jewish studies, see here, here, and here and links.

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AJR on Lambert, How Repentance Became Biblical

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: How Repentance Became Biblical (Jillian Stinchcomb).
David Lambert. How Repentance Became Biblical: Judaism, Christianity, and the Interpretation of Scripture. Oxford University Press: 2015.
Useful for students of the Hebrew Bible, certainly, but also for students of early Christianity, rabbinics, and the ancient Mediterranean world, this book asks and invites more questions- about interiority, about repentance, about reading the Bible historically and how it has historically been read- than it answers. To that end, it usefully opens conversations that might otherwise remain foreclosed.
I noted the publication of the book here.

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On the origins of Passover

BELATEDLY FOR PASSOVER: The Surprising Ancient Origins of Passover. The holiday we know today began as two distinct ones, one for nomadic herders and one for farmers. Neither involved Egypt (Elon Gilad, Haaretz).
The Passover Seder is one of the most recognized and widely practiced of Jewish rituals, yet had our ancestors visited one of these modern-day celebrations, they would be baffled.

Not only does our modern Seder wildly diverge from the Passover of old: during antiquity itself the holiday underwent radical changes. Below we chart as best we can - considering the shortage of historical documentation - the origins of Passover, from the dawn of Israelite people to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, and the consequent establishment of the embryonic Passover Seder, which modern Jews would recognize.

This came out in late March. I've been meaning to get to it. It involves a good bit of speculation. But overall it's a plausible reconstruction.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

More on the Torah sheet acquired by the Library of Congress

MANUSCRIPT: Ancient Torah scroll sheet preserved for public display. A Rutgers professor played a vital role in its acquisition (Alexandra DeMatos, Philadelphia Inquirer).
The Library of Congress recently got its hands on a Torah scroll sheet that dates to the 10th or 11th century, the earliest known legible version of the “Song of the Sea” and an invaluable find — and a Rutgers University professor played a vital role in its acquisition.

Detailing the flight of the Jewish people from Egypt, the vellum sheet measures 23 by 23.5 inches and contains Exodus 10:10 to 16:15, beginning with the “Ten Plagues” and continuing through the “Song of the Sea.”

This article gives some of the back story of the acquisition of this manuscript by the Library of Congress, including the contribution of Professor Gary Rendsburg.

There is an older (post-Dead Sea Scrolls) Torah fragment that includes the Song of the Sea: the Ashkar/London manuscript from the 7th/8th century CE. It is illegible to the naked eye, although technology has recovered its text. Background on both manuscripts is here and here and links.

UPDATE: doubled final link now corrected!

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Hurtado reviews "Jesus' Female Disciples: The New Evidence"

LARRY HURTADO: Women in the Jesus-Movement.
Last night in the UK, Channel 4 aired a TV documentary on the evidence of women’s involvement in the ministry of Jesus and the earliest Jesus-movement, featuring Professor Helen Bond (New College, Edinburgh) and Professor Joan Taylor (Kings College London), available here. On the whole, and for the popular TV audience for which it was prepared, the programme was interesting and informative. The main point was (quite rightly) to bring to the foreground the place of women among Jesus’ followers and in early Christianity thereafter.

I haven't seen this documentary, but I'm hearing good things about it. Unfortunately, I don't think the Channel 4 link will work outside the U.K. (Please correct me if that's wrong.) But the CSCO Blog has background material on the documentary here. And Professors Bond and Taylor discuss the new Mary Magdalene movie here.

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James on garden exoticism in the Song of Songs

The Exotic Garden in the Song of Songs

The logic of the garden exoticism in the Song, then, persuades the reader not that the garden is a “fantasy garden,” but that the space is the result of attention and care—one that presumes the intervention of a skilled gardener.

See Also: Landscapes of the Song of Songs: Poetry and Place (Oxford University Press, 2017).

By Elaine T. James
Assistant Professor of Theology
St. Catherine University
April 2018
Cross-file under New Book.

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Hamburg Coptic Summer School 2018

ALIN SUCIU: Summer School in Coptic Literature and Manuscripts. Follow the link for details. The application deadline is 31 May 2018.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

School kids excavate Talmudic-era lamp fragments

ARCHAEOLOGY: Pupils reconstruct 1,500-year-old Holy Land life in school archaeological dig. Newly uncovered ornately decorated oil lamps served as the heart of family life during the Talmudic era (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
A group of elementary-school-aged archaeologists-in-training don’t have to dig deep into their imaginations to visualize life in the Land of Israel some 1,500 years ago.

In an archaeological excavation just meters outside of the grounds of the Benzion Netanyahu school, students in grades one through six from the West Bank settlement of Barkan 25 kilometers outside Tel Aviv have uncovered pieces of ornately decorated Talmudic-era clay lamps.


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The Talmud on "manifest illegality"

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Disobey. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, how are individual Jews supposed to act when a religious court makes a ‘manifestly illegal’ ruling or unjust order?
This week, Daf Yomi readers began Tractate Horayot, the last tractate in Seder Nezikin, the division of the Talmud that deals with civil and criminal law. Horayot, whose name means “decisions,” is a very short tractate—just 14 pages long—and it deals with a narrow but important area of Jewish law: namely, what to do when a court issues an erroneous judgment. The short answer is that courts that mistakenly permit a forbidden act, and thereby encourage the Jewish people to sin, are liable to bring a sacrifice in atonement. But, of course, matters are never quite so simple in the Talmud, and the discussion ends up touching on basic questions about law and justice: above all, the question of when a person is obligated to obey a mistaken or unjust authority.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Judeo-Arabic poetry in the Cairo Geniza

GENIZA FRAGMENT OF THE MONTH: Judaeo-Arabic Poetry in the Cairo Genizah: T-S Ar.37.127 (Mohamed A. H. Ahmed).
Unlike Hebrew liturgical poetry, Arabic and Judaeo-Arabic poetry in the Cairo Genizah is an area that has hitherto received very little attention. While many scholars have worked on the Hebrew poetry, with extensive collections collated in books and on websites,2 the Arabic material has been largely neglected. If mentioned at all in catalogues, labelling is mostly limited to ‘Arabic poetry’, without any further details, and the large majority of sources still await description.


Much of the Arabic poetry in the Cairo Genizah collection is written in Judaeo-Arabic. ...
Most of this material is a bit late for PaleoJudaica (the Fatimid era). But I do like to keep an eye on what is going on in the field of Judeo-Arabic.

Speaking of which, in March I finally finished working through the fragments of the Judeo-Arabic translation of Sefer HaRazim and incorporating their evidence into my notes. It was one of the most difficult philological projects I have ever taken on.

Regular readers may recall that I am translating the famous Hebrew Talumdic-era magical tractate Sefer Ha Razim, "The Book of the Mysteries," for MOTP2. The Judeo-Arabic is an early translation of the Hebrew and it is important for reconstructing the text. I am now working on the Latin translation. Yes, there was a Latin translation too. I don't know who made it, but Christian Kabbalists and magicians liked such thing in the Middle Ages and beyond.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on Judeo-Arabic are collected here. Past posts involving Sefer HaRazim are here and links. Other past posts noting Cairo Geniza Fragments of the Month in the Cambridge University Library's Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit are here and links.

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Cambridge LXX seminar this month

WILLIAM ROSS: UPCOMING CAMBRIDGE SEMINAR ON THE SEPTUAGINT. William is in the last hurdle of thesis writing, but he has taken the time to let us know about the one-day "The Septuagint within the History of Greek" seminar taking place at the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University on 20 April 2018. I'm one of the 99% of his audience who won't be able to make it, but if you're in the area at the time, it sounds very much worth attending.

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Monday, April 09, 2018

Resurrection in the Book of Ezekiel (and in Ugaritic)

THEM BONES: The Valley of Dry Bones and the Resurrection of the Dead (Prof. Devorah Dimant,
Originally an allegorical vision about the future return of Judeans to their land, Ezekiel’s vision (ch. 37) becomes one of the cornerstones for the Jewish belief in the resurrection of the dead. The early stages of this development are made clear in a little-known Qumran scroll called Pseudo-Ezekiel.
Good essay. Instead of commenting on it directly, I'm going to use this as an excuse to share a few thoughts about Ezekiel's vision and the development of the idea of resurrection in the biblical world.

First, I want to depart a bit from the consensus on Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones. I agree that it is a symbolic representation of the revival of the nation after the exile rather that a description of the eschatological resurrection of the dead. But ... it's hard for me to think that the image didn't also evoke the idea of the physical resurrection of the dead in the mind of Ezekiel and his audience. Would anyone have used this image unless some ideas about physical resurrection were not already part of the cultural narrative? I doubt it.

Possibly around the same time as this oracle, the Deuteronomistic History was telling stories about individual resurrections carried out by the prophets Elijah and Elisha. So the idea was in the air. When prophets start seeing visions of a vast throng of individual resurrections, something interesting is in the air, and I don't think it's just symbolism.

Second, here's a tangentially related thought, something that occurred to me many years ago. I've never seen anyone else point it out. The Ugaritic texts from the late second millennium BCE include the Aqhat Epic, in which the hero Aqhat is killed by the goddess Anat. One guess was that in the lost ending Aqhat was resurrected from the dead. If so, that would be the earliest known direct reference to resurrection in the Northwest Semitic/Canaanite/Israelite world. But the ending is lost, so this is very speculative and I don't think it is seriously argued anymore.

But there is something interesting that is not speculative because it actually is in the text. When Aqhat's father, Danel, learns of the murder, he sets out to recover his son's body for burial. When vultures fly by, he invokes a curse of Baal on them which makes them fall from the sky and be torn apart, so he can examine the contents of their stomachs. (I know. Yuck!). Eventually he finds the vulture who ate Aqhat and buries what is left of him. But interest point is that after he examines the first dead vultures and finds they did not eat Aqhat, he recites an anti-curse in the name of Baal which reconstructs them and sends them flying off as good as new. So as early as the Ugaritic epics, people were exploring the idea of invoking the power of a god to raise individuals (birds in this case) from the dead. It's a very old idea.

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On the origins of Arabic

LECTURE SUMMARY: Origins of Arabic (Cinatra Fernandes, Arab Times).
Dr Christian Robin delivered a lecture on the origins of the Arabic language at the Yarmouk Cultural Centre on Monday evening as part of the Dar Al Athar Al Islamiyyah’s 23rd cultural season.

Dr Robin is the director of research emeriti of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France, the founder of the French research center in Sana’a (Yemen) and has served as director for many archaeological expeditions and research projects. He is the author of numerous books and scientific papers, most related to Yemen and its history. He also edited several publications and created two important archaeological maps, one of ancient Yemen and the other of Yemen’s Al-Jawf Valley.

In his lecture, he shared that in ancient times, the linguistic diversity of Arabia was greater than it is today. From the beginning of the twentieth century, the languages of pre-Islamic Arabia have been divided into two groups: the South Arabian and the North Arabian languages. The foundations of this ranking were more cultural than linguistic.

This is a nice summary of the origins of the Arabic language and alphabetic script. Aramaic (Nabatean) is involved.

Some past PaleoJudaica posts on the Nabatean language and the pre-Islamic Arabic language(s) are here and here and links. Cross-file under Nabatean (Nabataean) Watch.

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More on YHWH's Asherah

WHOSE PICTURE? Did God Have a Wife—And a Tail? A controversial new claim out of a dig in the Sinai has deemed an ancient image to depict a well-endowed Yahweh (or having a tail) with a wife at his side (Candida Moss, The Daily Beast). This is in response to Nir Hasson's Haaretz article, which I noted last week here. In some circles YHWH probably did had a wife. His "asherah" mentioned in the inscriptions is probably (for technical grammatical reasons) a wooden cultic object, but the object represented the Canaanite goddess Asherah. So in effect the reference is to the the goddess, YHWH's consort. The picture with the "tail," however, may depict a different god and his consort.

The story has also been picked up by The Forward. It doesn't add anything of substance, but it does win the prize for most lurid headline: Does This Picture Prove God Exposed Himself to Ancient Jews? (Sam Bromer).

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Hicks-Keeton, Arguing with Aseneth

Arguing with Aseneth
Gentile Access to Israel's Living God in Jewish Antiquity

Jill Hicks-Keeton

• Provides a new paradigm for framing the questions of provenance of "Joseph and Aseneth"
• Makes the new argument about why Aseneth's tale was authored and what narrative function it served in antiquity
• Offers a new way to contextualize the apostle Paul within the Judaism of his day
The publication date is given as 25 October 2018, but it can be preordered now.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Sunday, April 08, 2018

The metal codices are "forgeries" according to the Jordanian DoA

FAKE METAL CODICES WATCH: ‘Jordan Codices’ proven fake — DoA (Ahmed Bani Mustafa, The Jordan Times).
In response, the DoA issued a press release on March 9, 2017, in which it confirmed that the items needed further examining to ensure the authenticity of the writings and drawings apart from the materials, said the director.

The department formed a committee of researchers and epigraphists, who examined the books and confirmed that they were not authentic.

In its report, the taskforce concluded that the examination from an archaeological point of view proved that the metal books were false and worthless as they contained “irrelevant old letters and images” and that the manufacturer had no background about ancient inscriptions and their technical details or religious significance.

Also last year, the DoA formed a national team of researchers and specialists that scanned the area of the cave where the codices were allegedly discovered but did not find any relevance between the codices and the cave, particularly as no cavities in the cave’s walls were found.
I noted the 9 March 2017 announcement from the Jordanian Department of Antiquities here. The current story has been in the Arabic press for a while, but this is the first report I've seen on in in English. The news about exploration of the cave is especially interesting.

The current article doesn't give much more detail:
The DoA Director General Monther Jamhawi said that the codices are a kind of “professional” forgery that was executed skillfully.

“This advanced counterfeit has created confusion as ancient materials were used, such as lead and stones, and inscribing them with ancient look-alike texts and drawings that are hard to be tested,” Jamhawi told The Jordan Times on Saturday.
That is more or less what I concluded, with the caveat that the tests on the lead of a couple of the codices pointed toward their being at least a century or two old, and thus not a recent forgery. They could be early modern or perhaps from the Renaissance era. I have difficulty seeing them as any earlier than that. Their inscriptions and iconography are based on some ancient coins and a second-century CE tomb inscription from Madaba, Jordan (corrected: I originally wrote Amman). Someone used their coin collection and one or two other things to create the objects. Superficially they look ancient, but they combine text and iconography from different periods in an oddly anachronistic amalgamation whose texts border on making sense without ever actually doing so. They may be forgeries intended to deceive, in which case they are clumsily executed. Conceivably, they could be artifacts crafted to evoke the ritual power of the past for magical purposes, in which case there may have been no intention to deceive. I don't know who made them or why, but they are not genuinely ancient artifacts.

For my detailed four-part commentary on Samuel Zinner's comprehensive report on the metal codices, start here and follow the links. For my comments on an additional cache of metal codices recovered from smugglers in Turkey in October of 2017, see here.

This is where matters stand now, and they are unlikely to change unless someone starts publishing articles in peer-review venues which compel us to think differently about the codices. Meanwhile, I hope the Jordanian authorities publish their new report.

Who made the codices, when exactly, and for what purpose do remain genuine questions that I hope someone follows up. But they are not of interest for the study of antiquity.

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The Online Critical Pseudepigrapha Project

OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA WATCH: The Online Critical Pseudepigrapha.
The mandate of the Online Critical Pseudepigrapha is to develop and publish electronic editions of the best critical texts of the "Old Testament" Pseudepigrapha and related literature.

Note that in a few cases it has not yet been feasible to publish the best eclectic text of a given document. In other cases the OCP edition of a document does not yet include all of the textual evidence. Readers should consult the "text status" information on the introductory page for each document to determine whether a better or more complete text exists elsewhere.
It's been a long time since I have mentioned this project, so here it is again. They have developed an impressive lineup of original language texts.

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Review of Strootman and Versluys (eds.), Persianism in Antiquity

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Rolf Strootman, Miguel John Versluys (ed.), Persianism in Antiquity. Oriens et Occidens, 25. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2017. Pp. 557. ISBN 9783515113823. €84.00. Reviewed by Jan P. Stronk, Universiteit van Amsterdam (
Thirteen of the papers presented in this volume originate from a colloquium of the same title, held at Istanbul on April 24-25, 2014 and dedicated to the cultural and political memory of the Achaemenid Empire in antiquity. Subsequently, another eight authors accepted an invitation to add their views on aspects of ‘Persianism’, bringing the total to 21 papers, 20 in English and one in German. The aim of the colloquium was to explore “how the concept of ‘Persianism’ can help us to better understand the intracultural entanglements by which … [cultural and political] memory [of the Achaemenid Empire] is created, and so move beyond the traditional separation between West and East that still pervades the grand narratives of ancient history and cultural studies” (7). In the introductory chapter (9-32), the editors define ‘Persianism’ as “ideas and associations revolving around Persia and appropriated in specific contexts for specific (socio-cultural or political) reasons” (9). ...
Not surprisingly, "Persianism" in ancient Judea and ancient Judaism receives some attention.

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Conference on rituals and magic in Ugarit

Rituals and Magic in Ugarit: Practice, Contexts, and Meaning
When: April 25-27, 2018
Where: University of Münster (Germany)
For more information contact

This conference features seventeen scholars on religion and magic in Syrian antiquity. Topics include magical texts, rituals, and remedies used in Syria between the Bronze age and early Christian periods.
Follow the link for more details.

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