Saturday, July 28, 2018

Lester, Prophetic Rivalry, Gender, and Economics

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Olivia Stewart Lester. Prophetic Rivalry, Gender, and Economics. A Study in Revelation and Sibylline Oracles 4–5. [Prophetische Rivalität, Geschlecht und Wirtschaft. Eine Untersuchung zur Offenbarung und den Sibyllinischen Orakeln 4–5.] 2018. XIII, 239 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 466. 79,00 € sewn paper ISBN 978-3-16-155651-7.
Published in English.
Olivia Stewart Lester examines true and false prophecy at the intersections of interpretation, gender, and economics in Revelation, Sibylline Oracles 4–5, and contemporary ancient Mediterranean texts. With respect to gender, these texts construct a discourse of divine violence against prophets, in which masculine divine domination of both male and female prophets reinforces the authenticity of the prophetic message. Regarding economics, John and the Jewish sibyllists resist the economic actions of political groups around them, especially Rome, by imagining an alternate universe with a new prophetic economy. In this economy, God requires restitution from human beings, whose evil behavior incurs debt. The ongoing appeal of prophecy as a rhetorical strategy in Revelation and Sibylline Oracles 4–5, and the ongoing rivalries in which these texts engage, argue for prophecy's continuing significance in a larger ancient Mediterranean religious context.
For a summary of the PhD dissertation on which this book is based, see here. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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"Tyrants of the Tigris and Euphrates" coin collection

NUMISMATICS: Best in Show: Ancients of the Tyrant Collection (Charles Morgan, CoinWeek).
In our time, many individuals of great personal wealth prefer to keep a low profile. The identity of some of the greatest collectors is often a closely held secret. When these collections come to market, they appear under whimsical code names like “Sunrise Collection ” or “Prospero Collection .”

The Tyrant Collection is billed as “The World’s Most Valuable Coin Collection.” It will be rolled out to the public in handsomely staged displays at major coin shows over the course of several years.

“Tyrants have been the primary shapers of history for thousands of years. One of the first things tyrants do upon obtaining power is strike coins with their name and likeness, announcing their claim to their territory… Everyday coinage is the primary means by which tyrants notify their subjects and rivals of their tyranny,” the collector said.

“Coins still exist for nearly every tyrant of the last two thousand years who ever ruled a substantial country for more than a few weeks. The objective of The Tyrant Collection is to obtain a coin of every tyrant who ruled every major territory or country, preferably a large gold coin boldly displaying the tyrant’s name, likeness and titles,” he added.

This collector is evidently a person of immense wealth and exquisite taste, advised by top numismatic experts. The collection consists of parts grouped by geographic area. “Tyrants of the Thames,” covering Britain, was exhibited last year. “Tyrants of the Tigris and Euphrates” covering the Middle East appeared this year at the Long Beach, California coin show. In future years we will see ancient Egyptian (“Tyrants of the Nile”) Greek (“Tyrants of the Aegean,”) Roman (“Tyrants of the Tiber,”) French (“Tyrants of the Seine”) and other parts.
This photo essay depicts some coins from the “Tyrants of the Tigris and Euphrates” Collection. Among them are an Achaemenid gold daric from Persia, a gold stater of Antiochus I, and Parthian and Sassanian coins. They are of some indirect background interest to ancient Judaism.

I commend the anonymous collector for setting a good example by making the collection available for public viewing and scholarly study.

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Vetus Testamentum et Hellas

THE AWOL BLOG: Open Access Journal: Vetus Testamentum et Hellas. A newish journal on (broadly framed) Septuagint studies. Many of the articles are in Greek, but quite a few are in English and at least one so far is in German.

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Quinn on whether there were Phoenicians

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: Were There Phoenicians? (Josephine Quinn).
In their own eyes, however, the Phoenicians don’t seem to have existed. ‘Phoenician’ was a label Greek writers used for Levantine mariners who spoke similar dialects of a language very different from their own. The term implied little about those people’s cultural or ancestral ties, and it apparently meant nothing to the people themselves: no one from the coastal cities or their overseas colonies ever to our knowledge described themselves as ‘Phoenician’.
This essay gives a convenient summary of the arguments in Professor Quinn's recent book, In Search of the Phoenicians. Relevant past posts are here and links.

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Friday, July 27, 2018

Origin Stories - Part 3

MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS has its third installment of essays in its series Origin Stories: A Forum on the “Discovery” and Interpretation of First-Millennium Manuscripts. The first set of essays in the series was noted here and the second here. There are two new essays:

Nils Hallvard Korsvoll (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) – Seeing the forest but Missing the Trees
Philology and text-critical studies traditionally see manuscripts as repositories of traces and clues to discovering ancient texts. I argue here that this emphasis on text, as opposed to historical artifact, allows scholars to neglect questions concerning provenance.

His points are illustrated from the study of the Mesoptamian Aramaic incantation bowls. More on those problems is here and links. I would have found this essay more useful if the author had given specific examples of bowls that do not exhibit textual uniformity. How many bowls have their provenance checked carefully because their text is unusual and how many pass through without question because their text overlaps with already authenticated bowls?

Also, I don't understand one element of the reasoning for authentication as presented. Wouldn't it be easier to forge a bowl using text known from authenticated bowls than to try to forge a new late antique Aramaic text? Why exactly does overlap with the text of authenticated bowls confirm a new bowl's authenticity? Again, perhaps some specific examples would have made the process clearer.

Samuel Collins (George Mason University) – The Staffordshire Hoard and the Distance of the Past
The contrast, however, between the treatment of the hoard, with all its war gear and the tools of rough early medieval politics, and the kinds of overtly religious material considered elsewhere in this forum by my colleagues could not be starker. Take, as an example of the different sort of popular explanation given over to discoveries with a core of religious content, the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.” ...
Past PaleoJudaica posts on the Staffordshire Hoard are here and here.

More essays in the series are promised.

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A child burial in Sidon (Lebanon)

PHOENICIAN WATCH: Canaanite Child's Jar Burial Revealed in Ancient Sidon. Archaeological discovery of Islamic-era fort shows the Lebanese coastal city's continuous occupation over thousands of years (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz). There is no indication in the report that this is anything but a normal burial of a child. Contrast many of the burial jars excavated in (much later) Punic Carthage, which seem to be of sacrificed children.

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Horvat Kur excavation 2018

A team representing the University of Helsinki and the CSTT has participated in what the excavation team believes to be the final season of digging at the Horvat Kur synagogue. The Kinneret Regional Project, a joint expedition of the University of Helsinki, Leiden University, Bern University and Florida Atlantic University, finished the excavations of the Byzantine-era synagogue that was first found in 2010. During this year’s excavations, led by Jürgen Zangenberg, Raimo Hakola, Stefan Münger and Byron McCane, the team tried to find traces of the earliest phase of the building, which was apparently constructed for the first time in the second half of the fourth century.

PaleoJudaica has been following the Horvat Kur excavation since 2010, the year the synagogue was discovered. The mosaic was unearthed in 2015. For past posts see here and follow the links, plus here.

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Psalms of Solomon 9

READING ACTS: The One Who Does Righteousness – Psalm of Solomon 9. Another installment in Phil Long's current summer series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Past posts in the series have been noted here and links. That link leads first to more posts on the Psalms of Solomon.

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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Tu B'Av 2018

THE FESTIVAL OF TU B'AV begins this evening at sundown. Best wishes to all those celebrating.

Tu B'Av (which just means the 15th day of the month of Av) is an ancient matchmaking festival. Its first mention is in the Mishnah (Ta’anit 4). It has been revived in recent years as a kind of Jewish Valentine's Day. For more background on it, see here and links.

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A Bar Kokhba movie?

CINEMA CONCEPT: BAR KOKHBA: THE MOTION PICTURE. Spartacus has had his day in film history. It is time for Bar Kokhba (Eli Kavon, Jerusalem Post).
MY CONCEPT for a Bar Kokhba film – actually he was known by his birth name Shimon bar Koziba – is to combine the Golan-Globus action epic with some serious investigation as to why this revolt achieved success, the attitude of rabbis to Bar Kokhba, and the legacy of the last leader of a sovereign Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael before 1948. The reason that Bar Kokhba is the perfect subject of an historical film is that we have just enough information from rabbinic literature, archaeology, Greek and Roman historians, and Bar Kokhba’s letters to reconstruct the rebellion and the politics and theology that surrounded it.

The Great Revolt of 66-70 CE is recounted in great detail by the Jewish historian Josephus. But the only result of his chronicle was a horrendous television mini-series on Masada, completely ignoring the earlier stages of the revolt, the struggle between competing Jewish leadership, and the establishment of Rabbinic Judaism in Yavneh by Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai.

Masada, a literal and figurative dead end, has been hijacked for an audience that is deemed too stupid to follow the complexities of Jewish history, ancient and modern. The time has come for a thinking person’s film that combines military heroism and its dissent among the Jews of ancient Israel. As for the Diaspora rebellion against the Emperor Trajan in 115-117 CE, there is simply not enough information to reconstruct those events, although we know the Romans put down the rebels with great bloodshed.

We have just enough information about the Bar Kokhba rebellion to reconstruct it with fact and imagination and address issues that are relevant to this day. As the screenwriter, I would infuse my narrative with assessments of the Bar Kokhba legacy from two modern studies: The Image of Bar Kokhba in Traditional Jewish Literature by Richard G. Marks and the study of Recovered Roots by Yael Zerubavel.
I would say we don't have nearly enough evidence to reconstruct even the basic facts and events in the Bar Kokhba Revolt, let alone its politics and theology. Not that that would (or should) prevent a cinematic interpretation of it.

By the way, there have been two mini-series on Masada. Recently there was The Dovekeepers on which PaleoJudaica posted a number of times. See here and follow the links. There was also the Masada miniseries with Peter O'Toole back in 1981.

This is an interesting idea. The author clearly has his own vision for an interpretation of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, one that would not be uncontroversial. Let's see what happens.

For many past PaleoJudaica posts on the Bar Kokhba Revolt, see here (cf. here, here, and here) and follow the links.

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Boulder removed from Temple Mount platform

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Western Wall stone that fell near worshiper removed with crane. Officials mulling what to do with fallen 100 kg masonry due to its sacred status, considering reinserting it (Stuart Winer and TOI Staff, Times of Israel).
Officials blocked public access to the prayer platform, but is was later reopened.

Checks are still underway to find out why the block suddenly fell from its place. The Israel Antiques Authority is of the opinion that the stone’s fall was due to natural causes. Teams of experts are planning to use ultrasound and other means to further investigate the incident.

Amit Ram, an archaeologist from the Jerusalem division of the IAA, assessed that water seepage, roots from bushes or trees on the other side of the wall, or just the result of bearing the weight for so long may have caused the stone to dislodge.
I think the first quoted sentence is saying that the site has reopened (read "it" for "is"). But the article seems to imply later on that the mixed-prayer area is not yet reopened. Can anyone confirm what is happening?

Background here and here.

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There's a Daf Yomi for the Yerushalmi

TALMUD WATCH: ArtScroll Yerushalmi Prepares for New Learning Cycle (JLNJ Staff).
(Courtesy of Artscroll) It was at the Sixth Knessiah Gedolah of Agudath Israel, in Jerusalem, that a historic proclamation was made. The day was 18 Teves, 5740/1980. The speaker was the Lev Simchah, the Gerrer Rebbe. The proclamation was that it was time for the Torah world to begin a new Daf Yomi program, the daily study of Talmud Yerushalmi. The Yerushalmi Daf Yomi program takes 4.5 years and it is now celebrating its ninth siyum. The next Daf Yomi begins on August 4.

The Schottenstein Editions of the Talmud Bavli in Hebrew and English—and in French, as the Edmond J. Safra Edition—have contributed tremendously to the spread of Talmud study in general, and Daf Yomi study in particular. It has been estimated that of the 90,000 participants at the MetLife Stadium celebration of the last siyum, more than half were there thanks to ArtScroll’s authoritative editions. Now the same is happening regarding the Yerushalmi.

PaleoJudaica has been following a Daf Yomi cycle for the last six years with Tablet columnist Adam Kirsch. It covers the Babylonian Talmud (the Bavli). Daf Yomi means "daily page," because participants study one page of the Talmud each day.

The Yerushalmi is the less-known and, until recently, much-less-studied Palestinian Talmud. I didn't know that there was a Daf Yomi cycle for it too.

Incidentally, there is also a Daf Yomi cycle for the Zohar.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Talmud on sacrificial-blood laundry

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Dirty Laundry. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic rabbis decide how to clean the garments used in ritual slaughter (using urine). Also: When is a garment just a cloth?
With all this blood present, it was inevitable that sometimes blood would spill or spray onto the garments of the officiating priests. What should be done with such stained garments?
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Is the Western Wall safe?

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Western Wall not about to crumble, experts say after stone comes crashing down. Hebrew University academics emphasize that while constant monitoring and a early warning system are necessary, the monumental Herodian-era site should stay open to the public (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
Speaking with The Times of Israel on Tuesday, Earth Sciences Prof. Simon Emmanuel and archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar both emphasized that rocks crumbling from the Western Wall is “very rare.” But there is a need for serious and continuous checks around the wall’s perimeter.

While the Robinson’s Arch egalitarian prayer platform remains closed to the public since the incident, neither academic saw a need to shutter the entire archaeological site or the Western Wall Plaza at this time.

Their view stood in contrast to the analysis of an archaeologist who visited the site on Monday afternoon and warned that the entire Western Wall is a “danger zone.”
The latter archaeologist is Zachi Dvira, whose view was noted in earlier media coverage.

As far as I know, the site is still closed to the public. If it reopens and you visit it, please be careful!

Background here.

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Babylonian Judeans in cuneiform sources

DR. LAURIE PEARCE: Judean Life in Babylonia (
Upon the conquest of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar deported many Judeans to Babylonia. What was their life like there? Were they assimilated, or did they stand out? What language(s) did they speak and what religious practices did they maintain? What was their social and economic standing? Babylonian records allow us glimpses into the lives of some of the deportees.
This essay is a really useful overview of what we know about Judeans in Babylonia during the Exile and beyond, based on cuneiform sources. And it highlights one tablet that has a Hebrew name written on in paleo-Hebrew script. This is quite important.

For more on sepīru scribes and tupsharru scribes, see here and here. And for many past posts on the Babylonian-Judean cuneiform archive, start here and follow the links.

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A new edition of the Dublin Kephalaia

MANICHEAN (MANICHAEAN) WATCH: Lost and found literature: NAU professor translates ancient Manichean papyrus manuscript (Julie Hammonds, NAU NEWS).
Over the past 16 centuries, it’s been buried, soaked, lost, looted, sold across international borders, feared, destroyed by war, painted with shellac and set between sheets of glass.

Its writers, followers of a visionary named Mani, wrote their religion’s oral traditions on papyrus. Damaged by moisture and blackened by age, this precious manuscript—known as the “Dublin Kephalaia”—was almost unreadable in 2007 when Northern Arizona University professor Jason BeDuhn, an expert in comparative religions in the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies, began a translation.

An NAU seed grant gave BeDuhn and two colleagues their start; larger grants from the Australian Research Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities totaling $500,000 followed. This month, after 10 years of analysis, the manuscript’s ancient stories will be heard again.

The title of the edition seems to be The ‘Dublin Kephalaia Codex’ and it is the first of four volumes. I'll let you know when I find more information on it.

Meanwhile, past posts noting an earlier book on the codex cowritten by Professor Debuhn are here and here.

Cross-file under Coptic Watch.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Beit Lehi

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Advancing technology unearths 'lost city of ancient Israel' (Ilan Ben Zion, Al-Monitor).
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Utah Valley University (UVU) are expected to roll out in August a one-of-a-kind multimedia guide integrating 3D imaging and virtual reality to bring the ancient city of Beit Lehi, touted as “the lost city of ancient Israel,” to life. The digital guide to the site is slated to be launched next month.
The site has ruins extending from the Iron Age II to the Mamluk period. Epigraphers will recall one particularly important, if difficult, Hebrew inscription found there:
Archaeologists have found over 50 different inscriptions at various places around the site in Hebrew, Greek and Arabic, including a 6th century B.C. Hebrew inscription bearing the name of Jerusalem and the Israelite god Yahweh.

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The Shakespeare of Hebrew

INFLUENCE: The Prophet Whose Glorious Words Permeate Jewish Consciousness. Isaiah’s unforgettable language serves much the same role in spoken Hebrew that Shakespeare’s does in English (Atar Hadari, Mosaic Magazine).
But his people still say those words, daily, monthly, and annually, in the synagogue and in the street. They say them because the words are surpassingly beautiful, because of their eternally relevant warning to beware the temptation of straying too far from the law, and because they are true.

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Where are those DSS scribes?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Scribes in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Looking at scribal figures at Qumran (Megan Sauter).
What’s in the Dead Sea Scrolls about writing and scribes? Not as much as one might expect from a community that clearly valued scribal activity, as evidenced by their abundance of scrolls. In her Biblical Views column “Where Are the Scribes in the Dead Sea Scrolls?” published in the July/August 2018 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Charlotte Hempel examines the paucity of scribal figures in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
As usual, the BAR article is behind the subscription wall. But the BHD summary is worth reading.

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Coptic job in Münster

COPTIC WATCH: Coptology Job, WWU-Münster (Peter Gurrey, ETC Blog). An actual full professorship in Coptic doesn't come around very often. The deadline for applications is 15 August 2018.

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Boulder falls on that TM prayer plaza, no one hurt

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH (YIKES!): Ancient boulder dislodges from Western Wall, crashes onto egalitarian plaza. Dramatic footage shows large stone coming loose from revered site, shattering on platform below; no injuries reported (Marissa Newman and Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
The fallen boulder weighed about 220 pounds (100 kilos), Israel Radio said.

The incident came a day after the platform was filled with worshippers marking the Tisha B’Av fast, which honors the destruction of the two Jewish temples in Jerusalem. Tens of thousands of Jewish Israelis also flocked to the main prayer plaza of the Western Wall between Saturday night and Sunday evening to solemnly mark the day.
I'm glad no one was injured. The controversial prayer plaza has been in the news for other reasons recently. Background here and links.

UPDATE (24 July): The article has been revised to indicate just what a close call this was:
There were no injuries in the incident near Robinson’s Arch, south of the main prayer plaza, but the rock landed very close to a female worshiper.

“I didn’t hear or feel anything until it landed right at my feet, ” said Daniella Goldberg, 79. She said she was praying at the site, as she does regularly, when suddenly the boulder crashed down. She told Hadashot TV news she “tried not to let the incident distract me from my prayers” and refused to be drawn on whether divine providence had spared her. “May we all be blessed,” she said.
She tried not to let the incident distract her from her prayers. That's the spirit!

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On what day were the Temples destroyed?

FOR THE NINTH OF AV, JUST PAST: Tisha B’Av: On What Day Were the Jerusalem Temples Destroyed? (Dr. Rabbi Zev Farber,
The First Temple was destroyed either on the 10th of Av (Jeremiah 52:12) or the 7th (2 Kings 25:8). The Second Temple, according to Josephus, was destroyed on the 10th. How did Rabbinic Jews come to commemorate the destruction of both Temples on the 9th of Av?
This year's Tisha B'Av post is here.

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Wold, 4QInstruction: Divisions and Hierarchies

4QInstruction: Divisions and Hierarchies

Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah, Volume: 123

Author: Benjamin Wold

In 4QInstruction: Divisions and Hierarchies, Benjamin Wold challenges the interpretation of 4QInstruction as a deterministic and dualistic composition. In a re-examination of key fragments he offers new reconstructions and translations that indicate 4QInstruction envisaged wisdom available to all humanity, divisions among humankind and communities as the result of individual adherence to wisdom, and a hierarchy of authority as a result of individual merit.

Publication Date: 25 July 2018
ISBN: 978-90-04-36144-7

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Meyers on motherhood in the NT

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: Blessed Among Women? Mothers and Motherhood in the New Testament (Alicia D. Myers).
Although mothers, as well as themes of motherhood, appear throughout the New Testament, male figures attract the most attention from biblical scholars. But as feminist and womanist scholars have shown, this male-focused lens has left much unnoticed, including mothers. While readers might be quick to note Jesus’ own mother, we overlook others, including those mentioned in the Gospels and later texts, as well as those invisible behind the texts in groups of gathered saints listening to these works.

In my new book, Blessed Among Women? Mothers and Motherhood in the New Testament I argue that when we remember the unavoidable fact that we are all “of woman born”—including early Christian authors—we begin to see the theological import of these characters and metaphors. Rather than an easy acceptance of all things maternal as mere ornamental flair for more “substantive” theological positions, the constructions of mothers and motherhood in the ancient Mediterranean world helps demonstrate not only developing Christianity’s ambivalence toward maternal presence and motifs, but also its inherently gendered presentations of salvation

Cross-file under New Book (from OUP).

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Sunday, July 22, 2018

More on opposition to Temple Mount prayer plaza

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH ON THE NINTH OF AV: Is evidence of Temple’s destruction being destroyed by a bid for Jewish unity? Archaeologist Prof. Dan Bahat files a High Court petition to stop Western Wall construction. What is the archaeology that is currently covered, and what is in the provisional plan? (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel). The situation:
Standing in the park, what immediately captures the imagination is the massive stone rubble, lying exactly where it landed when Roman soldiers pried the huge ashlar stones from the Temple Mount high above. Here, more than in any other place in the park, can one resoundingly conceptualize the horror of the fall of the Second Temple and the destruction wrought there.

However, since a High Court case in 2000, the archaeological park is also officially used as a space for egalitarian prayer. And now, after decades of contentious struggle and negotiations between all major Jewish denominations in Israel and abroad, under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office, a large permanent prayer platform is in the final planning stages for construction.

“The Western Wall is sacrosanct,” said [archaeologist Dan] Bahat, now retired from a career as a prominent archaeologist. “But out of a national monument, it has become a synagogue.”
In this article:
Ahead of Tisha B’Av, the Jewish day of mourning over the destruction of the two Temples, The Times of Israel spoke with archaeologists about what exactly is currently being “destroyed” at the Robinson’s Arch prayer area, and, after getting a glimpse of still unfinalized plans for the new expanded permanent platform, what other evidence of Judaism’s historical past may be “desecrated” — or even potentially better preserved.
The article has very full background and it interviews many of the people whose opinion about the situation matters. Pour some coffee, or whatever you drink, sit down, and read it all.

Archaeologist Eilat Mazar formerly opposed the construction of the plaza along with Dr. Bahat. But, according to this article, she feels that progress has been made in addressing the objections of the archaeologists.

The debate over whether the development of this site as a place for egalitarian prayer takes adequate care of the archaeological ruins has been going on for a while. Background here and follow the links.

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Nongbri, God's Library

FORTHCOMING BOOK FROM YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS: God's Library: The Archaeology of the Earliest Christian Manuscripts. Hardcover – August 21, 2018. by Brent Nongbri (Author).
A provocative book from a highly original scholar, challenging much of what we know about early Christian manuscripts

In this bold and groundbreaking book, Brent Nongbri provides an up-to-date introduction to the major collections of early Christian manuscripts and demonstrates that much of what we thought we knew about these books and fragments is mistaken. While biblical scholars have expended much effort in their study of the texts contained within our earliest Christian manuscripts, there has been a surprising lack of interest in thinking about these books as material objects with individual, unique histories. We have too often ignored the ways that the antiquities market obscures our knowledge of the origins of these manuscripts.

Through painstaking archival research and detailed studies of our most important collections of early Christian manuscripts, Nongbri vividly shows how the earliest Christian books are more than just carriers of texts or samples of handwriting. They are three-dimensional archaeological artifacts with fascinating stories to tell, if we’re willing to listen.
Regular readers will recognize Dr. Nongbri from his blog Variant Readings, to which PaleoJudaica links from time to time.

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Schiffman on the significance of the DSS

PROF. LAWRENCE H. SCHIFFMAN: A REFLECTION ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS. This post links to a reprint of his recent article in the Jerusalem Report. It's a good summary of the current state of the question.

See also Professor Schiffman's recent article on The Dead Sea Scrolls at 70.

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Dershowitz on the redaction of Leviticus 18

REDACTION CRITICISM: The Secret History of Leviticus Idan Dershowitz, NYT).
Like many ancient texts, Leviticus was created gradually over a long period and includes the words of more than one writer. Many scholars believe that the section in which Leviticus 18 appears was added by a comparatively late editor, perhaps one who worked more than a century after the oldest material in the book was composed. An earlier edition of Leviticus, then, may have been silent on the matter of sex between men.

But I think a stronger claim is warranted. ...
This is a quite interesting reconstruction of the composition history of Leviticus 18 and its prohibitions of male-to-male sex and incest. The essay is based on a scholarly article that you can read in full on Dr. Dershowitz's page: Pre-print: Revealing Nakedness and Concealing Homosexual Intercourse: Legal and Lexical Evolution in Leviticus 18.

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