Saturday, September 29, 2018

A naked mural in the Sibyl's town

OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA WATCH (SORT OF): 2,200-year-old Mural Featuring Naked Servant Discovered in Italian Tomb. Colorful pictures found in ancient necropolis of Cumae, near Naples, suggest the settlement was either tragically unhip or its elites had a taste for retro (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz premium).

This is a notable discovery in its own right, but my interest is in its location in Cumae. Regular readers will be aware that there is an ancient Jewish and Christian literature called the "Sibylline Oracles." It adopts the pagan prophetess from Greek and Roman traditions, the Sibyl, and attributes lots of biblical-themed oracles in Greek hexameter verse to her.

These Sibylline Oracle, which we file for convenience under Old Testament pseudepigrapha, are inspired by the original pagan oracles attributed to the Sibyl. Alas, nearly all of the latter are lost. Various stories have most of them perishing in fires.

There were quite a few Sibyl traditions associated with various locations. The most prominent one for the Classical Romans was the Sibyl of Cumae. This article gives some background on her along with the information on the newly discovered mural.
While sibyl oracles were common as dirt in the ancient world, the Cumaean version reached prominence in the ancient circles of Rome possibly less because of clarity or accuracy in prophecy, and more because of proximity.

No less an ancient authority than Virgil described a visit by the Trojan royal Aeneas to the “dread Sibyl” of Cumae. Aeneas was son of Aphrodite and ancestor to Rome founders Romulus and Remus, so he had responsibilities. ...
For many past PaleoJudaica posts on the Sibylline Oracles (mostly the Jewish and Christian ones), see here, here, here, here, here, here, and links.

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Saint-Laurent and Smith (eds.), The History of Mar Behnam and Sarah

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Persian Martyrs Mar Behnam and Sarah. Notice of a new book: Saint-Laurent, Jeanne-Nicole Mellon, and Kyle Smith, eds., The History of Mar Behnam and Sarah. Martyrdom and Monasticism in Medieval Iraq, Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation, 7 (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2018). Cross-file under Syriac Watch.

This odd narrative is of interest in itself. But what caught my eye was the names of the protagonists: Mar Benham and Sarah. Regular readers will recognize them. The monastery dedicated to Mar Benham and his sister was captured by ISIS during the war and we followed its fate, its liberation, and the dramatic story of the rescue of hundreds of its precious old manuscripts from ISIS. See here and follow the links.

In this new book you can read the story (legend) of Mar Benham and Sarah themselves.

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The Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database Project

THE AWOL BLOG: Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database Project: an international collaborative research project.

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That other Jericho

THE HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: New Testament/Herodian Jericho (Carl Rasmussen). Did you know that Jesus' Jericho was not the same one as Joshua's?

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Friday, September 28, 2018

The premier Judeo-Arabic expert just turned 99

PHILOLOGY IS GOOD FOR YOU: The Little-known Language Spoken by Jews Across the Medieval Arab World. Less known than Yiddish or Ladino, Judeo-Arabic was spoken by Jews from Iran to Spain, from Yemen to Syria. The 99-year-old doyen of Maimonides' tongue, says that during Golden Age of Islam, Jewish culture in Arab lands was 10 times greater than that of Ashkenazi Jewry (Smadar Reisfeld, Haaretz premium).

Review for new readers: Judeo-Arabic is Arabic written in Hebrew letters. It was commonly used in literate Jewish circles in the medieval Middle East. The Cairo Geniza is full of fragments written in Judeo-Arabic.

This is a marvelous article. The wide-ranging interview with Joshua Blau deals with his childhood in Hungary, his escape from the Nazis in Austria, his career in Israel, and his seven-decades-long-and-counting marriage. And Judeo-Arabic. Lots on Judeo-Arabic. A survey of the subject with sidetracks into its nooks and crannies from the world's expert on the subject.

There is so much in this article that any excerpting is misleading. But I can't resist just this one:
When you started to teach at the Hebrew University, you specialized in Judeo-Arabic grammar. Why in the world grammar?

“When I was 6, my father asked me whether I wanted to go to kindergarten or school. ‘School,’ I said. When I got home, he asked, ‘How was it?’ ‘Very interesting,’ I said. He asked, ‘What did you have?’ I said, ‘Grammar.’ My father, being a normal person, turned pale, and said, ‘Derangement.’ And here, all my life I have made a living from that derangement. I simply love it.”
That derangement has treated me well too.

If you have any interest in Judeo-Arabic, and you probably do or you wouldn't be here, get your free registration at Haaretz and read this premium article.

Regular readers know of my interest in the subject. For past posts, start with this one from two days ago and just keep following those links. And for additional evidence that philology is good for you, see here, here and here

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Bull, The Tradition of Hermes Trismegistus

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
The Tradition of Hermes Trismegistus
The Egyptian Priestly Figure as a Teacher of Hellenized Wisdom


Series:
Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, Volume: 186

Author: Christian H. Bull

In The Tradition of Hermes Trismegistus, Christian H. Bull argues that the treatises attributed to Hermes Trismegistus reflect the spiritual exercises and ritual practices of loosely organized brotherhoods in Egypt. These small groups were directed by Egyptian priests educated in the traditional lore of the temples, but also conversant with Greek philosophy. Such priests, who were increasingly dispossessed with the gradual demise of the Egyptian temples, could find eager adherents among a Greek-speaking audience seeking for the wisdom of the Egyptian Hermes, who was widely considered to be an important source for the philosophies of Pythagoras and Plato. The volume contains a comprehensive analysis of the myths of Hermes Trismegistus, a reevaluation of the Way of Hermes, and a contextualization of this ritual tradition.

Publication Date: 20 September 2018
ISBN: 978-90-04-37081-4

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Sukkot in the NT

FOR SUKKOT: Sukkot in the New Testament: From Lulav and Hoshana to Palm Sunday (Dr. Shayna Sheinfeld, TheTorah.com).
Jesus is famously associated with the holiday of Passover. However according to the Gospel of John, Jesus makes his debut and final visit at the temple on Sukkot, while the Book of Revelation uses Sukkot imagery to describe Jesus’ future appearance on earth. These repurposings of Sukkot and its rituals highlight Sukkot’s eschatological significance for Jews in Second Temple times (Zech 14).

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Hadashot Arkheologiyot

THE AWOL BLOG: Open Access Journal: Hadashot Arkheologiyot - Excavations and Survey in Israel. I mentioned this journal once, years ago, but I've never formally noted it. So here it is. Looks like it provides lots of useful information on current excavations in Israel.

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Revelation roasts Rome?

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight | Sarah Emanuel, "Roasting Rome."
Sarah Emanuel, Roasting Rome: Humor, Resistance, and Jewish Cultural Persistence in the Book of Revelation. PhD Dissertation, Drew University Graduate Division of Religion, 2017.
Excerpt:
My dissertation, by and large, explores Revelation’s subversions through the lens of the comic. Throughout the project, I argue that Revelation is a postcolonial Jewish narrative of “becoming” that uses humor as a mode of opposition and repair in the face of imperial trauma. ...

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Goldstone, The Dangerous Duty of Rebuke

AND YET ANOTHER NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
The Dangerous Duty of Rebuke: Leviticus 19:17 in Early Jewish and Christian Interpretation

Series:
Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, Volume: 185

Author: Matthew S. Goldstone

In The Dangerous Duty of Rebuke Matthew Goldstone explores the ways in which religious leaders within early Jewish and Christian communities conceived of the obligation to rebuke their fellows based upon the biblical verse: “Rebuke your fellow but do not incur sin” (Leviticus 19:17). Analyzing texts from the Bible through the Talmud and late Midrashim as well as early Christian monastic writings, he exposes a shift from asking how to rebuke in the Second Temple and early Christian period, to whether one can rebuke in early rabbinic texts, to whether one should rebuke in later rabbinic and monastic sources. Mapping these observations onto shifting sociological concerns, this work offers a new perspective on the nature of interpersonal responsibility in antiquity.

Publication Date: 7 August 2018
ISBN: 978-90-04-37655-7

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Septuagintal punctuation in Esther

THE ETC BLOG: Paragraph Break at Greek Esther 2:5? (John Meade). This may seem like excessive attention to detail, but details matter. If we understand the (usually sparse) punctuation in ancient and medieval biblical manuscripts, we understand more about biblical exegesis in those scribal traditions.

I don't know how significant this particular example is, but the principle is sound. It is good to see the scholarly editions observing it.

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Satlow's "Great Jewish Books" Syllabus

MICHAEL SATLOW: Great Jewish Books, Again.
This semester I am teaching my “Great Jewish Books” class again. It is targeted for undergraduates and meant to introduce them to the general shape of the “Judaic conversation” while having them wrestle with categories such as Jewish literature. ...
Follow the link for the course syllabus. Ancient Judaism received good coverage. Looks like an excellent course.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Judeo-Arabic poetry from the Cairo Geniza

GENIZA FRAGMENT OF THE MONTH (SEPTEMBER 2018): Six Centuries of Arab Poets Transmitted in a Booklet of Judaeo-Arabic Poetry (Gretchen E. Belnap). You will recall that Judeo-Arabic is Arabic written in Hebrew letters. The Arabic and Hebrew alphabets have an imperfect overlap, so reading Judeo-Arabic can be quite a challenge.

I have worked with Judeo-Arabic materials a fair bit in the last few of years, so I like to keep track of what is happening in the area. This Cairo Geniza manuscript includes pre-Islamic Arabic poetry, which is rare.

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

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

Reportlet on the 2018 Mt Zion excavation

JAMES TABOR: A Short Report on our 2018 Excavations at Mt Zion in Jerusalem.
Here is a short summary of our fabulous 2018 dig season at our Mt Zion site in Jerusalem with a pictorial essay at the end. Enjoy!
A longer press release is coming, but this post gives some highlights of the season.

Past PaleoJudaica posts on the Mt Zion excavation are here and links. An especially notable discovery there was a mysterious inscribed ritual stone cup.

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Review of Belser, Rabbinic Tales of Destruction

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Rabbinic Tales of Destruction (M Adryael Tong).
Julia Watts Belser. Rabbinic Tales of Destruction: Gender, Sex, and Disability in the Ruins of Jerusalem. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.
Opening:
Julia Watts Belser’s methodological masterpiece marries the academic study of the Talmud with Jewish constructive theology. She combines a carefully crafted critical apparatus with creative close readings of tales of destruction from Bavli Gittin and associated midrashic texts. The volume incorporates insights from postcolonial theory, disability studies, ecological materialism, class critique, and gender and sexuality studies into a synthetic hermeneutic emphasizing embodiment as theorized in the rabbinic texts. ...
Past PaleoJudaica posts on Dr. Belser's work are here and here and links.

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Divinities and demons in Deuteronomy?

YES, THERE ARE: Are There Gods, Angels, and Demons in Deuteronomy? (Prof. Jonathan Ben-Dov, TheTorah.com).
Several poetic verses in Deuteronomy were used in Second Temple times to support the belief in multiple characters in the divine realm. Thus, the scribes of the early Masoretic text, who opposed this belief, sometimes went so far as to revise or excise these references.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Holy Greco-Aramaic comics, Batman!

ARAMAIC WATCH PLUS DECORATIVE ART: Slam! Bam! Pow! Archaeologists Find Ancient 'Comics' Decorating Roman Tomb in Jordan. Rudimentary speech bubbles illustrate scenes from the Hellenistic frontier town Capitolias 2,000 years ago – in an incongruous combination of Greek and Aramaic (Ariel David, Haaretz).
Archaeologists in Jordan have uncovered a Roman-era tomb decorated with spectacular frescoes that include rudimentary "comics" – which were written in Aramaic using Greek letters. The drawings provide extraordinary testimony to the diverse and cosmopolitan environment in the Hellenistic border towns of the Roman empire.

[...]
This is a blockbuster discovery. I noted an announcement of it back in April, but information was sparse. It's good that we are finally hearing some details. The site in northern Jordan is called Beit Ras. The many murals include images of people, gods, and animals. And the inscriptions give us some very rare vocalized Aramaic from the Roman era.

This Haaretz article is not in the premium section, so you can read it without registration. Do read it. It's an important story. The story is also covered in An Iconographic Treasure Unearthed in Jordan by Philippe Testard-Vaillant in CNRS News. It includes another photo as well.

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Vroom, The Authority of Law in the Hebrew Bible and Early Judaism

ANOTHER NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
The Authority of Law in the Hebrew Bible and Early Judaism
Tracing the Origins of Legal Obligation from Ezra to Qumran


Series:
Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism

Author: Jonathan Vroom

In The Authority of Law in the Hebrew Bible and Early Judaism, Vroom identifies a development in the authority of written law that took place in early Judaism. Ever since Assyriologists began to recognize that the Mesopotamian law collections did not function as law codes do today—as a source of binding obligation—scholars have grappled with the question of when the Pentateuchal legal corpora came to be treated as legally binding. Vroom draws from legal theory to provide a theoretical framework for understanding the nature of legal authority, and develops a methodology for identifying instances in which legal texts were treated as binding law by ancient interpreters. This method is applied to a selection of legal-interpretive texts: Ezra-Nehemiah, Temple Scroll, the Qumran rule texts, and the Samaritan Pentateuch.

Publication Date: 11 September 2018
ISBN: 978-90-04-38164-3

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An ancient Coptic love spell?

COPTIC WATCH: Ancient Egyptian 'Magic Spell' Deciphered (Owen Jarus, Live Science).
An ancient Egyptian papyrus with an image showing two bird-like creatures, possibly with a penis connecting them, has been deciphered, revealing a magic spell of love.

"The most striking feature of [the papyrus] is its image," wrote Korshi Dosoo, a lecturer at the University of Strasbourg in France, who published the papyrus recently in the Journal of Coptic Studies.

Dosoo estimates that it dates back around 1,300 years, to a time when Christianity was widely practiced in Egypt.

[...]
This is an weird, intriguing little text. But two aspects of it raise concerns. Both are well covered in the article.

First, it is unprovenanced. No one knows where it was found or when exactly. For some time (e.g., here, here, here, here) I have taken the line that unprovenanced inscriptions should be regarded as fake unless someone makes a persuasive case for their authenticity. I stand by that here.

In some cases, it looks as though it would be very difficult to produce a convincing forgery, but these seem to be becoming fewer as forgers become more sophisticated. I don't know how hard it would be to forge a Coptic magical text. But given our experience with the Gospel of Jesus' Wife, I suspect it could be done fairly convincingly.

In the DSD review linked to in the immediately preceding post, Årstein Justnes makes the same point about unprovenanced inscriptions:
Until now the burden of proof in our field has rested on scholars who claim that an unprovenanced item is a forgery. This needs to change.
I have not read the article in the Journal of Coptic Studies. Perhaps it would convince me that this is a genuine ancient manuscript.

Second, due to its lack of provenance, it is not clear that the manuscript was acquired in accordance with the relevant UNESCO treaty of 1972. So if it is genuine, its purchase many not have been in accordance with international conventions. I make no judgement about this particular object. But the issue should be flagged.

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Some problems with those dubious DSS-like fragments.

THE LYNING PEN OF SCRIBES BLOG: “Troubling anomalies”, and elements that raise “questions”, “suspicions”, and “concerns” in Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments in the Museum Collection (Brill, 2016) (Årstein Justnes).
This blog post is a supplement to my DSD review of Emanuel Tov, Kipp Davis, and Robert Duke (eds), Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments in the Museum Collection (Publications of Museum of the Bible 1; Leiden: Brill, 2016; hardback, pp. 236; ISBN 9789004321489)

{...]
This blog post is technical and is of interest to specialists. The DSD review, which is posted on Academia.edu (see the link), is more general and accessible to nonspecialists.

The discussion of these dubious post-2002 Dead Sea Scroll-like fragments has been going on for some time. For past PaleoJudaica posts, see here and links.

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

Monday, September 24, 2018

Sukkot 2018

THE FESTIVAL OF SUKKOT (BOOTHS, TABERNACLES) began last night at sundown. Best wishes to all those observing it.

Last year's Sukkot post was here with links to biblical background and other Sukkot-related posts. Subsequent Sukkot posts are here, here, here, and here.

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

Sukkot in Greco-Roman antiquity

SUKKOT IS HERE! (SEE NEXT POST): What Sukkot Meant to Jews and Gentiles in Greco-Roman Antiquity (Prof. René Bloch, TheTorah.com).
Sukkot was a festival of paramount importance to Jews in Greco-Roman antiquity, and was well-known to non-Jews. In fact, its processions with festive palm branches (lulavim) reminded pagans of Bacchic rituals with the thyrsos carried by the votaries of Dionysus/Bacchus and used in his festivals.

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Laham Cohen, The Jews in Late Antiquity

NEW BOOK FROM THE ARC HUMANITIES PRESS:
The Jews in Late Antiquity

Rodrigo Laham Cohen

$14.95

Tags: Christianity, early Middle Ages, Jews, Judaism, Late Antiquity, Late Roman World
ISBN: 9781942401650

Description
Is it possible to summarize the history of the Jews in late antiquity? The lack of source material makes it challenging, but this short book provides a brief snapshot, based on the available evidence. It focuses on seven different regions: Italy, North Africa (except Egypt), Gaul, Spain, Egypt, the Land of Israel, and Babylonia, and identifies common patterns, but also clear regional and temporal differences between each distinct area.
The Jews in Late Antiquity should be considered as a first step towards the understanding of a little-known period in Jewish history, and its aim is to leave the reader wanting to know more.
HT AJR.

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Palmer, Converts in the Dead Sea Scrolls

SO MANY NEW BOOKS FROM BRILL! HERE'S ANOTHER:
Converts in the Dead Sea Scrolls
The Gēr and Mutable Ethnicity


Series:
Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah, Volume: 126

Author: Carmen Palmer

Converts in the Dead Sea Scrolls examines the meaning of the term gēr in the Dead Sea Scrolls. While often interpreted as a resident alien, this study of the term as it is employed within scriptural rewriting in the Dead Sea Scrolls concludes that the gēr is a Gentile convert to Judaism. Contrasting the gēr in the Dead Sea Scrolls against scriptural predecessors, Carmen Palmer finds that a conversion is possible by means of mutable ethnicity. Furthermore, mutable features of ethnicity in the sectarian movement affiliated with the Dead Sea Scrolls include shared kinship, connection to land, and common culture in the practice of circumcision. The sectarian movement is not as closed toward Gentiles as has been commonly considered.

Publication Date: 11 September 2018
ISBN: 978-90-04-37818-6
In its PhD dissertation form, this work was noted by AJR in 2016.

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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Özertural & Silfeler (eds.), Der östliche Manichäismus im Spiegel seiner Buch- und Schriftkultur

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Eastern Manicheism as Reflected in its Book and Manuscript Culture. Notice of a new book: Özertural, Zekine & Gökhan Silfeler (eds.). 2018. Der östliche Manichäismus im Spiegel seiner Buch- und Schriftkultur. Vorträge des Göttinger Symposiums vom 11./12. März 2015 (Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Neue Folge 47). Berlin: De Gruyter.

Follow the link for details. Cross-file under Manichean (Manichaean) Watch.

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Blurbs on the Septuaginta reader

WILLIAM ROSS: WHAT ARE SCHOLARS SAYING (SO FAR) ABOUT THIS READER’S EDITION? Some thoughts on the Reader’s Edition by people who are not me (or Greg). "Reader's Edition" refers to Ross and Lanier, Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition (Hendricksen, forthcoming soon).

Spoiler: they liked it.

Background here and links.

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Fowler and Strickland, The Influence of Ezekiel in the Fourth Gospel

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
The Influence of Ezekiel in the Fourth Gospel
Intertextuality and Interpretation


Series:
Biblical Interpretation Series, Volume: 167

Authors: William G. Fowler and Michael Strickland

This monograph presents important research regarding the Fourth Gospel’s use of Scripture, specifically the book of Ezekiel. It provides the first detailed comparison of the theological vocabularies of the two works, identifying intertextual links and themes. This is a major update and expansion of the doctoral dissertation of William Fowler from 1995 ("The Influence of Ezekiel in the Fourth Gospel", PhD diss. Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary).

Publication Date: 11 September 2018
ISBN: 978-90-04-38384-5

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Tekhelet blues

EXHIBITION: Jerusalem Museum Untangles History of the Color Blue, From Biblical Hue to Ancient Royalty. The show inks out the history of the enigmatic sky blue dye known as ‘tekhelet.’ I noted this exhibition at the Jerusalem Bible Lands Museum last May. This Smithsonian piece by Meilan Solly collects the media coverage of it.

For past PaleoJudaica posts on the telekhet dye in the Bible etc., start here and follow the links.

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