Saturday, May 05, 2018

Review of Lundhaug and Lied (eds.), Snapshots

2018.05.06 | Liv Ingeborg Lied and Hugo Lundhaug, eds. Snapshots of Evolving Traditions: Jewish and Christian Manuscript Culture, Textual Fluidity, and New Philology. TU 175. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017. xviii + 366 pages.

Reviewed by Garrick V. Allen, Dublin City University.

This collection of thirteen articles, many of which were originally presented in a workshop at the University of Oslo in 2012, is designed to stimulate new methodological approaches to ancient manuscript cultures and their products. It is “New Philology” in action.

Past posts on this book are here and links. As I've mentioned before, I have an essay in it on translating the Hekhalot literature.

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Gnosis 3.1

FORBIDDEN GOSPELS BLOG: Gnosis volume 3.1 published on Hermetism (April DeConick).
I am happy to announce that the special issue of GNOSIS 3.1 is published. Christian Bull as a guest editor put together a special collection of papers on Hermes Trismegistus. I am particularly delighted with this special collection because I have felt for a very long time that the hermetic sources often don't get the attention that they should in the study of gnostic movements and literatures.

Follow the link for more details and the TOC.

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Forbidden sex in the Holiness Code and the ANE

DR. EVE LEVAVI FEINSTEIN: Sexual Prohibitions in the Bible and the ANE: A Comparison (
How do the laws of Leviticus 18 compare to the laws and practices of the Babylonians, Hittites, and Egyptians, and to the rest of the Bible?
By the standards of other ANE societies, the sexual laws in H are exceptionally restrictive.

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Review of Cadwallader (ed.), Stones, Bones and the Sacred

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Alan H. Cadwallader (ed.), Stones, Bones and the Sacred: Essays on Material Culture and Religion in Honor of Dennis E. Smith. Early Christianity and its literature. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016. Pp. xvii, 365. ISBN 9781628371666. $44.68. Reviewed by Bilal Bas, Marmara University (
Stones, Bones, and the Sacred is a collection of 16 essays on material culture and ancient religion in honor of Dennis E. Smith edited by Alan H. Cadwallader. In the first essay, Hal E. Taussig presents a general evaluation of Dennis E. Smith’s scholarship and the final essay is written by Smith himself as a response to the essays. In general, the essays focus on the intersection of material culture, ancient religion, and the texts and practices of early Christianity. Many of the authors attempt to employ the interpretation of material culture in the New Testament exegesis and Christian origins (Ibita, Økland, Huber, Cadwallader, Kurek-Chomycz and Bieringer, Weima, Thompson, and Wilson). A group of scholars employ literary and material evidence in order to explore meals in Greco-Roman world and early Christianity (Ibita, Alikin, Friesen, Schowalter, Dyer, Økland).

All the essays are well-written, learned contributions to their respective fields and thus worth mentioning. However, due to the limited space allowed for a book review, there is room to review only some of them.
Also, Larry Hurtado has some critical comments on the book: “Material Culture” of Early Christianity. He is disappointed with its lack of attention to the material culture of ancient Christian manuscripts. The book is about ancient Christianity, but there is much in it relevant to ancient Judaism as well.

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Friday, May 04, 2018

Bar Kokhba coin excavated in Modi'in cave

NUMISMATICS: Unearthed Bar Kochba coin points to far-reaching support for rebels against Rome. A late revolt bronze coin discovered where rebels sought refuge in a cave near Modiin indicates geographically widespread Jewish backing of the ultimately bloody Jerusalem uprising (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
Even as the Jewish people on Lag B’Omer Thursday celebrate the heroism of Simon Bar Kochba in rebelling against the pagan ruling Roman Empire in 132 CE, a tangible symbol of the revolt — a single bronze coin — was recently discovered in a limestone cave outside of the central Israeli city of Modiin.

The discovery of a single bronze coin from the Bar Kochba Revolt so far from the Jerusalem area, until recently considered the center of the rebel’s efforts, is important evidence for historians in corroborating the broad geographical spread of the revolt and its supporters, who presumably took refuge in the new Modiin cave.

The announcement was made on the Lag B'Omer holiday, which has traditional associations with the Bar Kokhba Revolt. More on that here. For other past posts on the Revolt, start here and follow the links.

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More on those new DSS bits

UPDATE: Hidden Text Found on 'Blank' Dead Sea Scrolls (Laura Geggel, Live Science). I have already posted on this discovery, but this article covers the story very well and clearly and also has a detail that I have not seen before:
The newfound writing came from the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, which are in the Hebrew Bible (also known as the Old Testament of the Christian Bible), and the Book of Jubilees, a text written at the same time as the Hebrew Bible that was never incorporated into the biblical books, the archaeologists said.
My emphasis. That's the first mention I recall of a Jubilees fragment among the recovered texts.

Also, the article has a good, brief video.

Background here.

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The Hezekiah and Isaiah bullae are coming to Oklahoma

EXHIBITION: Armstrong International Cultural Foundation Announces World Premiere of Seals of Isaiah and King Hezekiah (Longview News Journal).
EDMOND, Okla., May 3, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Armstrong International

Cultural Foundation announces the world premiere of "Seals of Isaiah and King Hezekiah Discovered" June 10 through August 19 at Armstrong Auditorium.

"Seals of Isaiah and King Hezekiah Discovered" is an archaeological exhibition that will enable visitors to discover the history of ancient Judah's most famous king-prophet pairing-a story which illuminates how Jerusalem escaped annihilation at the hands of King Sennacherib's Assyrian army at the end of the 8th century B.C. Items on display will include nearly three dozen artifacts from the time of King Hezekiah, including the recently discovered royal seal impressions of King Hezekiah and Isaiah from the Ophel excavations, royal Judean clay vessels, and weapons used during the siege of Lachish. The exhibit will also feature key Assyrian history and will include such artifacts as the famous Annals of Sennacherib Prism (aka Taylor/Jerusalem/Oriental Prism), various other Assyrian inscriptions, and replicas of the famous Assyrian wall reliefs.

Background on the Hezekiah bulla (clay seal impression) is here and links. Background on the Isaiah bulla is here and links.

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Reeves and Reed, Enoch from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

NEW BOOK FROM OUP: Enoch from Antiquity to the Middle Ages: Sources From Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Volume I 1st Edition by John C. Reeves and Annette Yoshiko Reed.
Across the ancient and medieval literature of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, one finds references to the antediluvian sage Enoch. Both the Book of the Watchers and the Astronomical Book were long known from their Ethiopic versions, which are preserved as part of Mashafa Henok Nabiy ('Book of Enoch the Prophet')--an Enochic compendium known in the West as 1 Enoch. Since the discovery of Aramaic fragments among the Dead Sea Scrolls, these books have attracted renewed attention as important sources for ancient Judaism. Among the results has been the recognition of the surprisingly long and varied tradition surrounding Enoch. Within 1 Enoch alone, for instance, we find evidence for intensive literary creativity.

This volume provides a comprehensive set of core references for easy and accessible consultation. It shows that the rich afterlives of Enochic texts and traditions can be studied more thoroughly by scholars of Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity as well as by scholars of late antique and medieval religions. Specialists in the Second Temple period-the era in which Enochic literature first appears-will be able to trace (or discount) the survival of Enochic motifs and mythemes within Jewish literary circles from late antiquity into the Middle Ages, thereby shedding light on the trajectories of Jewish apocalypticism and its possible intersections with Jewish mysticism. Students of Near Eastern esotericism and Hellenistic philosophies will have further data for exploring the origins of 'gnosticism' and its possible impact upon sectarian currents in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Those interested in the intellectual symbiosis among Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the Middle Ages-and especially in the transmission of the ancient sciences associated with Hermeticism (e.g., astrology, theurgy, divinatory techniques, alchemy, angelology, demonology)-will be able to view a chain of tradition reconstructed in its entirety for the first time in textual form. In the process, we hope to provide historians of religion with a new tool for assessing the intertextual relationships between different religious corpora and for understanding the intertwined histories of the major religious communities of the ancient and medieval Near East.
I noted the book as forthcoming here. It came out at the beginning of this month.

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Thursday, May 03, 2018

PaleoJudaica has a Blogroll again!

REASSIMILATED TO THE BLOGROLLOSPHERE: In the early days of blogging many, probably most, blogs had a blogroll in their sidebar. PaleoJudaica was no exception. A blogroll is a list of linked-to blogs (or regularly updated websites) which readers of the posting blog may find interesting. I maintained PaleoJudiaca's blogroll for many years. But over time too many blogs fell away or ceased to post frequently. When I updated PaleoJudaica's template some years ago, I did not bring the blogroll forward.

But now people are realizing the value of blogs over less nutritious social media. There's a new generation of bibliobloggers, and more people are tuning in to those of us who never stopped. It's time for a new PaleoJudaica blogroll. You can find it in the sidebar to the right.

All of the blogs in the PaleoJudaica blogroll publish posts of interest for the study of ancient Judaism. Some of them do so often, others only occasionally. Many of them also publish on matters of background or cognate interest, things in which PaleoJudaica is also interested. Most of them post frequently. One or two post infrequently but are very relevant when they do post. For more on the specific interests of PaleoJudaica, see the About PaleoJudaica page.

Inclusion in the blogroll does not imply any endorsement of the full content of any blog. If there is anyone I agree with on everything, I have yet to meet that person.

Likewise, as always, my linking to a blog post doesn't necessarily mean I agree with what it says. It just means it is something I think my readers may find interesting. I blog, you decide.

If you have a blog that posts interesting things about ancient Judaism and related matters and you are not in my blogroll, please drop me a note. I would be happy to look at your blog and consider it for inclusion.

So, my faithful readers, this is for you. When you sit down daily to PaleoJudaica with your morning coffee (or whenever with whatever you drink), you can check out the latest on the biblioblogosphere too.

Happy reading!

(Like the mug? You can get one here.)

UPDATE (4 May): I should add that the blogs in my Blogroll are by no means the only ones I link to. I keep an eye on many other blogs that occasionally provide items of interest. Whether or not your blog is on my blogroll, if you have published a post you think might be of interest to PaleoJudaica, please do drop me a note and alert me to it. I will be happy to have a look at it.

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van der Toorn on Papyrus Amherst 63

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: Three Israelite Psalms in an Ancient Egyptian Papyrus (Karel van der Toorn).
Papyrus Amherst 63 is divided in sections. The first section is devoted to texts from an Aramean community from Babylonia, worshippers of Nanay and Nabu. The second section contains texts from Syrian Arameans that came from Hamath; their religion is focused on the god Bethel. The third section is Samarian and contains the three Israelite psalms. They refer to Yaho as “our Bull,” which is entirely in line with the North-Israelite practice of venerating Yaho in the form of a young bull (the “Golden Calf”). To judge by the shape of the Demotic characters of the text, the papyrus dates from the mid-fourth century BCE.
Professor van der Toorn has recently published an edition of Papyrus Amherst 63. For past PaleoJudaica posts on this difficult and fascinating document, start here and follow the links.

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Jørstad on "personalistic nature texts" in the HB

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight | Mari Jørstad.
Mari Jørstad, The Life of the World: The Vitality and Personhood of Non-Animal Nature in the Hebrew Bible (Duke University, 2016)

The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament tells of the work of God’s hand” (Psalm 19:2[1]) – the Hebrew Bible is full of texts like this one, in which trees clap, mountains romp, lands vomit, and stars fight in wars. In my dissertation I explore such texts – what I call “personalistic nature texts” – and their potential contribution to contemporary environmental ethics. I argue that the biblical writers lived in a world populated with a wide variety of “persons,” only some of whom are human. ...

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CFP: Postgraduate conference on memory and oblivion in ancient and Medieval texts

ROGUE CLASSICISM BLOG: Prolepsis Postgraduate Conference: “Optanda erat oblivio” Selection and Loss in Ancient and Medieval Literature (David Meadows).
Prolepsis Association is delighted to announce its third international postgraduate conference whose theme will be the mechanisms of selection and loss in ancient and Medieval literary and historical texts. “Optanda erat oblivio” Seneca writes in benef. 5. 25. 2, referring to Tiberius’ wish for forgetfulness. We would like to use this quotation as a starting point for a discussion on the vast number of issues related to memory and oblivion in ancient and Medieval texts. This year the conference will be particularly keen on – but not limited to – the following topics ...
The conference takes place at the University of Bari, Italy, on 20-21 December 2018. Strictly speaking it is not about ancient Judaism. But it deals with many issues of interest to PaleoJudaica. These include palimpsests, texts surviving only in translation, lost books, and pseudepigraphy. The deadline for paper proposals (from postgraduates only) is 21 June 2018. Follow the link for further particulars

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On the prohibition of male-to-male sex in Leviticus

IDAN DERSHOWITZ: How the Prohibition of Male Homosexual Intercourse Altered the Laws of Incest. (
Originally Leviticus 18 prohibited homosexual incest with a man’s father (v. 7) and his uncle (v. 14). When the prohibition of male homosexual intercourse was added, the Torah modified the aforementioned laws and consequently changed the meaning of לגלות ערוה “to uncover nakedness.”
Could be. Generally I think that semantic variability is not in itself a persuasive argument for finding redactional layers in a text. People has always used language in complicated and even inconsistent ways. But read the essay and see what you think.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Lag B'Omer 2018

LAG B'OMER, the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer, begins tonight at sundown. Best wishes to all observing it.

Last year's Lag B'Omer post is here. It discussed the biblical and rabbinic background of the holiday and collected previous posts of interest. Other posts involving Lag B'Omer from the last year are here, here, here, and here.

UPDATE: A couple of readers wrote in to point out that the wording of the opening of this post was inaccurate and confusing. I have corrected it accordingly. I am grateful for the feedback. Follow the link (now also corrected!) to last year's Lag B'Omer post for details about the holiday.

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New DSS bits

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: NASA Technology Reveals Existence of Missing Dead Sea Scroll. High-resolution photography finds writing not visible with the naked eye on fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and paleo-Hebrew writing that hints at a scroll never seen before (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
Advanced imaging technology originally developed for NASA has revealed previously unnoticed writing on fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Israel Antiquities Authority revealed on Tuesday. Moreover, one of the newly discerned and deciphered passages, written in early Hebrew, hints at the existence of a scroll never found and still unknown to researchers.

This story isn't that complicated, but much of the media is having trouble figuring it out. This Haaretz article gives the best coverage I have seen.

In brief: new imaging technology was used on some apparently blank scroll fragments from Cave 11. The fragments are very small. The technology found writing on some of the fragments. The writing included a bit from the Temple Scroll, a bit from Psalm 147 from the Great Psalms Scroll, and a bit in paleo-Hebrew script which has not yet been connected with any other known text. There were also fragments with material from Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

There's nothing earthshaking on these fragments (although the one of Psalm 147 did include a variant). But I commend the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Hebrew University for their thorough work on the Dead Sea Scrolls. They are clearly determined to recover every bit of information that is on them. As I like to say ...

Bit by bit, a letter at a time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.

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The Scholem collection at the Israel National Library

INTERVIEW WITH THE CURATOR: How This Bible Got To Jerusalem — And Other Secrets Of Gershom Scholem’s Library (Aviva Kushner, The Forward).
The index cards Scholem painstakingly prepared to create his dictionary of the Zohar are here, in a wooden card catalogue, as is the Scholem family Bible, which is encased in glass. I watched, intrigued, as scholars and eccentrics from around the world got up from their spots at the tables throughout the room to take a look at a volume from Scholem’s vast collection of books on Hasidim, comparative religion, psychology and philosophy. A few looked up and smiled at me, as if we were all residents of the same home, part of the same family. On the day I visited, there was only one woman besides me in the room; all the other researchers were male — but I was assured this was just happenstance.

Scholem’s books offer clues to his thought, and his research on subjects like Shabtai Tzvi, Jewish history’s most famous false messiah. For Scholem’s many devotees, who appear to live on every point on the spectrum between deeply religious and incurably secular, the draw is not just the books in the collection, but the handwritten notes found written in them — the marginalia Scholem left behind.
The curator of the Scholem Room in the Israel National Library is Dr. Zvi Leshem. The National Library is currently undergoing renovation. The Scholem collection will be moving to a new building.

Oh, and you have to read to near the end of the article to find out about that Bible (the Scholem family Bible) mentioned in the headline.

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The Lost City of Irisagrig and Hobby Lobby

REPATRIATION: Stolen Sumerian Tablets Come from the Lost City of Irisagrig (Owen Jarus, Live Science).
Hundreds of 4,000 year old tablets that were looted in Iraq and bought by the U.S. company Hobby Lobby seem to hail from a mysterious Sumerian city whose whereabouts are unknown, a U.S. law enforcement agency just announced.

The tablets are part of a cache of thousands of looted artifacts purchased by Hobby Lobby and seized by the U.S. government. They are now set to be returned to Iraq.

They are being repatriated to Iraq today in a ceremony in Washington D.C. Not everyone is happy about this:
Not all scholars agree that the artifacts should be returned right away. "If these tablets are returned and if they are from Irisagrig, it will be a great tragedy for scholarship that they will not be published before they are returned," said David Owen, a professor of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University. Owen has published a number of scientific papers describing tablets from Irisagrig, but has not worked with Hobby Lobby and has not studied the seized texts.

"Once they enter the bowels of the Iraq Museum, it is unlikely scholars will ever have acccess to them, nor are there any Iraqi scholars capable of publishing them given the many thousands of unpublished texts already in storage in the museum for generations and mostly inaccessible to scholars," Owen told Live Science.
He doesn't object to repatriation in principle, but he thinks that the texts should be fully published first.

Last year I noted the story of the seizure of artifacts from Hobby Lobby by the Justice Department. The story has received much coverage since then. Start here and follow the links. The story is indirectly connected (through the Green family) to the Green Collection and to the recently opened Museum of the Bible, on which more here and links.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2018

The Talmud on the logic of sacrifice

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: If A, Then B. Through Daf Yomi’s exercises in mathematical logic, Talmudic rabbis attempt to decipher the will of a reasonable God. Plus: What distinguishes guilt from sin?
At one point in this week’s Daf Yomi reading, Rabbi Yehoshua put a stop to the Gemara’s discussion by saying that it was halila, “going around in circles.” I often had the same feeling as we delved further into Tractate Zevachim, the section of the Talmud that deals with slaughtered offerings in the ancient Temple. That is because, while the subject matter of this tractate may seem highly concrete—it is all about killing animals and how to sacrifice their blood and flesh—it actually involves the kind of abstract logical reasoning you might find in a logic puzzle or LSAT question, which has never been my strong suit.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Suciu on the Qur'an-Coptic palimpsest

DIGITAL EDITION OF THE COPTIC OLD TESTAMENT: Sahidic Biblical Text Found Behind Qur'an Palimpsest (Alin Suciu). Dr. Suciu is a Coptologist who usually blogs from his Alin Suciu blog, to which I link from time to time. But here we find him at another venue, sharing with us some expert commentary and correction which you haven't seen in the media coverage.

Background here.

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Review of Brill’s Companion to the Reception of Herodotus in Antiquity and Beyond (ed. Priestley and Zali)

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Jessica Priestley, Vasiliki Zali (ed.), Brill’s Companion to the Reception of Herodotus in Antiquity and Beyond. Brill’s companions to classical reception, 6. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2016. Pp. xvi, 440. ISBN 9789004272293. $194.00. Reviewed by Lorenzo Miletti, University of Naples Federico II (
This companion is a generous and extremely welcome work which both widens and enriches the debate on Herodotus’ reception, a theme that has provoked wide interest in recent decades, after a long period in which scholarship consisted of a sparse list of contributions, the most famous being some essays by Arnaldo Momigliano

There is much here of potential interest for ancient Judaism, not least the chapter on Josephus's use of Herodotus.

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Memorializing the death of soldiers then and now

PROF. JACOB L. WRIGHT: Honoring the Death of Soldiers (
The concept of heroic death is conspicuously absent in Bible. This sharply contrasts with ancient Near Eastern and Greek tropes, as well as with the book of Maccabees and modern day commemorations such as Israel’s Yom Hazikaron and America’s Memorial Day. How should we understand this difference?

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Monday, April 30, 2018

Stolen Samaritan Scriptures

SAMARITAN WATCH (see also correction in update below): An ancient sect, a brazen theft and the hunt to bring the stolen manuscripts home (Daniel Estrin, Minnesota Public Radio News).
Before dawn on March 21, 1995, someone broke into a synagogue in the Palestinian city of Nablus.

The thief — maybe it was a band of thieves — crossed the carpeted sanctuary, pulled back a heavy velvet curtain, and opened a carved wooden ark. Inside were two handwritten copies of the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. One was a sheepskin scroll written around 1360 and kept in a slender copper case. The other was a codex, a thick book, probably from the 15th century and bound in a maroon leather cover. The thief or thieves snatched the manuscripts, escaped through the synagogue's arched doorway, discarded the copper case in a stairwell, and vanished.

These were no ordinary texts. They were perhaps the most ancient Torahs stolen in the Holy Land since the Crusaders pillaged Jerusalem. And they belonged not to Jews but to the Samaritans, one of the world's oldest and tiniest religious sects. Known from the New Testament parable of the Good Samaritan, the group has barely survived. Centuries ago, it numbered more than 1 million; today, according to the last count, there are only 810 Samaritans left.

The Samaritans trace their roots to the ancient Israelites and regard themselves as the most loyal followers of the word of God as transmitted to Moses. Women are kept apart from others when menstruating in adherence with ritual purity, and men sacrifice sheep each year on Passover, a biblical commandment Jews gave up millennia ago.

If the Samaritans are the true keepers of the biblical faith, their Torahs are title deeds: rare and sacred manuscripts, written in a variation of the original Israelite script that Jews abandoned long ago and featuring passages scholars say preserve some of the earliest drafts of the Bible. Of the three dozen old biblical manuscripts left in the community's coffers, the Samaritans say one is the oldest in the world, written by Moses' great-grandnephew. These manuscripts are the Samaritans' most jealously guarded possessions, and collectors across the globe have gone to great lengths to get their hands on them.

So have thieves.

This is a long article and a long story, with as many twists and turns as a Raymond Chandler novel. And it's just as hard to put down. Find some time and a comfortable chair and read it all.

Meanwhile, to make a long story short, the stolen scroll has been recovered by the Israeli authorities, but cannot now be returned for political reasons. (I hope that now that the story is getting this publicity, some workaround for that can be found.) The codex has vanished.

Regular PaleoJudaica readers will remember Benyamin Tsedaka, who has been mentioned from time to time. See here and links.

That exceedingly old Torah scroll is the Abisha Scroll (photo above). Fortunately, is not the stolen one. But alas, it was not written by Moses' great-grandnephew. The colophon (note at the end of the manuscript) which says so may be a cryptogram. The scroll itself is a patchwork of scrolls from different periods. The earliest pieces may go back to the eleventh or twelfth century C.E. For more on the Abisha Scroll, see this article by the renowned specialist on the Samaritans, Alan D. Crown.

Image: the Abisha Scroll (Wikimedia Commons). Click on the link for a larger version.

UPDATE (12 October 2018): Reviewing this post, I see there is some unclarity in the article and some confusion by me in my comments. The article says that a "leaf" from the "scroll" has been recovered. Scrolls don't come with leaves/pages. That would be a codex (book format). A clearer way of expressing it is that a column of the scroll (see photo in article), has been recovered. The scroll is being dismantled by unsewing its seams and separating out the individual columns. My confusion was to read this as the whole scroll having been recovered. It was just one column of it. Sorry for the error. For more on the story, see here.

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Samaritan Passover 2018

SAMARITAN WATCH: West Bank neighbors flock to Mt. Gerizim for Samaritan Passover sheep slaughter. Both Israeli and Palestinian community leaders in attendance, demonstrating storied religious minority's successful ability to straddle political divide (Times of Israel). The Samaritans celebrate Passover, but on a slightly different schedule from Jewish Passover. This year their Passover sacrifice took place yesterday, on 29 April. The Jewish Press also has a photo essay on the event: A Samaritan Passover.

For past PaleoJudaica posts on Samaritan Passover, see here and links.

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Review of Long and Sørensen (eds.), Positions and Professions in Palmyra

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Tracey Long, Annette Højen Sørensen (ed.), Positions and Professions in Palmyra. Scientia Danica. Series H, Humanistica, 4 vol. 9; Palmyrene studies, 2. Copenhagen: Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, 2017. Pp. 136. ISBN 9788773044049. 200.00 DKK (pb). Reviewed by Michael Sommer, Universität Oldenburg (
The papers collected in the present volume were presented at a workshop held at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, in 2017. They all deal with aspects of status and profession, seen from different angles and through a variety of evidence. The editors have both been involved in the Palmyra Portrait Project, an Aarhus-based project concerned with the collection, cataloguing and documentation of the surviving corpus of Palmyrene funerary sculpture scattered across collections in the world. Hence not surprisingly, one of the approaches this volume takes to “position and profession in the Syrian oasis city is through funerary portraits. The second one is more conventional and focuses on the epigraphic corpus, which has been the subject of several studies in the past.

Cross-file under Palmyra Watch. For many other past posts on the site of Palmyra, its Aramaic language, its artifacts, and its tragic fate while in the hands of ISIS, start here and follow the links.

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Semitic philology posts at Venice University (deadlines soon!)

THE NETWORK FOR THE STUDY OF ESOTERICISM IN ANTIQUITY: TWO POSITIONS IN SYRIAC AND ARABIC CHRISTIAN DIGITAL PHILOLOGY AT VENICE. A postdoc (Arabic) and a PhD position (Syriac). The deadlines are very soon: respectively, 2 May and 4 May 2018. So if you are interested, you need to hurry!

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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Lieber, Jewish Aramaic Poetry from Late Antiquity

Jewish Aramaic Poetry from Late Antiquity

Translations and Commentaries. Cambridge Genizah Studies Series Volume 8
Series: Études sur le judaïsme médiéval, Volume: 75
Author: Laura Suzanne Lieber

In Jewish Aramaic Poetry from Late Antiquity, Laura Suzanne Lieber offers annotated translations of sixty-nine poems written between the 4th and 7th century C.E. in the Land of Israel, along with commentaries and introductions. The poems celebrate a range of occasions from the ritual year and the life-cycle: Passover, Shavuot (Pentacost), the Ninth of Av, Purim, the New Moon of Nisan, the conclusion of the Torah, weddings, and funerals.

Written in the vernacular of the Jews of living in Palestine after the Christianization of the Roman Empire, these works offer insight into lived Jewish experience during a pivotal age. The volume contextualizes the individual works so that readers from a range of backgrounds can appreciate the formal, linguistic, exegetical, theological, and performative creativity of these works.

Publication Date: 19 April 2018
ISBN: 978-90-04-36588-9
Cross-file under Aramaic Watch. I noted the author's 2014 book, The Vocabulary of Desire, on the Song of Songs, here and links.

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Peter's house in Capernaum?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The House of Peter: The Home of Jesus in Capernaum? How the remnants of the humble dwelling of Jesus in Capernaum illuminate how Christianity began.
Biblical archaeology discoveries are not cut-and-dry cases. Though there is no definitive proof in this instance that the house ruin uncovered by the excavators actually is the ancient house of Peter, there is layer upon layer of circumstantial evidence to support its importance in early Christianity and its association with Jesus in Capernaum and his foremost disciple, Peter. Were it not for its association with Jesus and Peter, why else would a run-of-the-mill first-century house in Capernaum have become a focal point of Christian worship and identity for centuries to come?
I am surprised to see that PaleoJudaica has never before mentioned this important site.

More on the Capernaum synagogue is here.

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Review of Woolmer, A Short History of the Phoenicians

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Mark Woolmer, A Short History of the Phoenicians. I.B. Tauris short histories. London: I.B. Tauris, 2017. Pp. xviii, 233. ISBN 9781780766188. $15.95 (pb). Reviewed by Aaron L. Beek, University of Memphis (
The 21st century has seen something of a boom in Phoenician studies, including the appearance of a fair number of texts targeted for general readers.1 Woolmer adds to this number with an affordable primer on the Phoenicians that focuses primarily on Phoenicia proper, largely excluding the western colonies.

Woolmer’s text is divided into five chapters, topical rather than chronological. Woolmer presents roughly 900 years of Phoenician history and society concisely within 200 pages of content. The result is a readable text that owes much to his own earlier 2011 book as well as a fair bit to Markoe’s more detailed 2000 book, particularly in matching its chapter organization.

Cross-file under Phoenician Watch.

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Ancient Egyptian astronaut architects?

THE ONION: Controversial Theory Suggests Aliens May Have Built Ancient Egypt’s Intergalactic Spaceport. Ancient astronaut conspiracy theories are not credible. I'm sure the Egyptians built the spaceport themselves, just like the Pyramids.

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