Monday, July 22, 2019

A church dedicated to the Apostle Peter at Bethsaida?

ARCHAEOLOGY: Shrine to Apostle Peter unearthed: Israeli archaeologist (Stephen Weizman, AFP). Two elements of this story are inferential and open to debate.

First, the site, El-Araj, is only one contender to be the ancient city of Bethsaida. The other is et-Tell. Second, there is no direct indication — such as an inscription — in the ruins of the church that it was dedicated to Peter. The inference is based on an account by an eighth-century visitor.

Read the whole article for details.

Past posts on the two contending sites for Bethsaida are here (cf. here) and links.

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Reviews of Barton, A History of the Bible

THE ETC BLOG: Barton on the Bible. Peter Gurry notes a couple of reviews of John Barton's new book, A History of the Bible: The Story of the World's Most Influential Book (Viking).

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

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Lataster, Questioning the Historicity of Jesus

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Questioning the Historicity of Jesus

Why a Philosophical Analysis Elucidates the Historical Discourse


Series:
Value Inquiry Book Series Online, Volume: 336
Value Inquiry Book Series
Philosophy and Religion

Author: Raphael Lataster

This volume moves beyond the mainstream scholarly scepticism over the Christ of Faith and considers if there is sufficient evidence to establish the existence of the more mundane Historical Jesus. Using the logical tools of the analytic philosopher, Lataster finds that the relevant sources are unreliable as historical documents, and that the key method of those purporting that the Historical Jesus existed is to appeal to sources that do not exist. Considering an ancient hypothesis suggesting that Jesus began as a celestial messiah that certain Second Temple Jews already believed in, and was later allegorised in the Gospels, Lataster discovers that it is more reasonable to at least be agnostic over Jesus’ historicity.

Publication Date: 1 July 2019
ISBN: 978-90-04-40878-4
Brill has published a Mythicist book on Jesus. It will be interesting to see how it is received.

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Saturday, July 20, 2019

More from the AJR series on Jensen, "The Cross" and Fine, "The Menorah"

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW has concluded the series with two more essays:

SBL 2018 Book Review Panel | Menorah and Cross, Signs and Things (Pamela Eisenbaum).

SBL 2018 Book Review Panel | Response from Robin Jensen (Robin Jensen).

I noted the earlier essays in the series here.

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Barlaam and Josaphat

THE BRITISH LIBRARY: The Buddha’s long ‘journey’ to Europe and Africa. Yes, I know the Buddha is not usually a subject for PaleoJudaica. But the Legend of Barlaam and Josaphat is of some interest because of its wide transmission in relevant languages, including Hebrew, Greek, Ge’ez, Armenian, Georgian Arabic, Uigur, Syriac, and Judeo-Persian. There is a connection with Turfan (cf. here) as well. It went on to be transmitted in many European languages.

I have never posted on this remarkable text before, so have a look at this post at the British Library's Asian and African studies blog, with reference to their upcoming exhibition, Buddhism.

HT Steve Dodson at the Language Hat Blog.

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Eating fish in ancient Jerusalem

NEWS YOU CAN USE: What Kinds of Fish Were Eaten in Ancient Jerusalem? (Prof. Omri Lernau, M.D., TheTorah.com).
Fishbone remains discovered in eight different excavations in Jerusalem, from the Iron age to the early Islamic period, give us a sense of what fish the locals ate, and from where they were imported.
With implications for biblical studies and the history of food purity rules.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Newsom, Rhetoric and Hermeneutics

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Carol A. Newsom. Rhetoric and Hermeneutics. Approaches to Text, Tradition and Social Construction in Biblical and Second Temple Literature. 2019. XX, 382 pages. Forschungen zum Alten Testament 130. 149,00 € including VAT. cloth ISBN 978-3-16-157723-9.
Published in English.
This collection of essays by Carol A. Newsom explores the indispensable role that rhetoric and hermeneutics play in the production and reception of biblical and Second Temple literature. Some of the essays are methodological and programmatic, while others provide extended case studies. Because rhetoric is, as Kenneth Burke put it, »a strategy for encompassing a situation,« the analysis of rhetoric illumines the ways in which texts engage particular historical moments, shape and reshape communities, and even construct new models of self and agency. The essays in this book not only explore how ancient texts hermeneutically engage existing traditions but also how they themselves have become the objects of hermeneutical transformation in contexts ranging from ancient sectarian Judaism to the politics of post-World War I and II Germany and America to modern film criticism and feminist re-reading.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Review of Andrade, Zenobia: Shooting Star of Palmyra

BYRN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Nathanael J. Andrade, Zenobia: Shooting Star of Palmyra. Women in Antiquity. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. xvii, 284. ISBN 9780190638818. $35.00. Reviewed by Gustavo A. Vivas García​, Universidad de La Laguna (gusgarvi@gmail.com).
Neither Odainath, nor of course Zenobia or her son, intended to separate from the Empire nor to break with Rome or usurp the Imperial throne. Nathanael Andrade’s book is clear in this respect. Zenobia behaved like a Hellenistic queen who surrounded herself with men of letters like Callinicos, and who had Cassius Longinus as her chief philosopher, who was rapidly eliminated by Aurelian after the Queen’s defeat. An Empress who conquered Egypt and in passing subdued Arabia, inserting her name onto all the milestones along the kingdom’s roads. A woman who was interested in religious questions and who built a contact with the Christian bishop, Paul of Samosata. A monarch whose objective was to try to obtain a place in the Empire, even on equal terms with Aurelian in the West. In 272, however, Zenobia’s Imperial and dynastic dream met an abrupt end. Aurelian proved himself to be her match and made-to-measure rival.
Past PaleoJudaica post on the Empress Zenobia are here and links.

Cross-file under Palmyra Watch. Many other past posts on Palmyra, its history, the ancient Aramaic dialect spoken there (Palmyrene), and the city's tragic reversals of fortune, now trending for the better, are here and links.

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

Sunday, July 14, 2019

AJR series on Jensen, "The Cross" and Fine, "The Menorah"

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: SBL 2018 Book Review Panel | Art and Religion in Antiquity. Felicity Harley-McGowan introduces the series at the link.
At the 2018 meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Denver, two program units collaborated in reviewing two books published by Harvard University Press: Robin Jensen’s The Cross: History, Art and Controversy (2018) and Steven Fine’s The Menorah: From the Bible to Modern Israel (2016).
The first essay is by David Frankfurter:
JEWISH (AND CHRISTIAN) SYMBOLS IN THE LATE MODERN PERIOD: JENSEN’S CROSS AND FINE’S MENORAH
There are two themes that I do think could bring these symbols together, and in their material rather than abstract manifestations. First, both authors alert us in various ways to the vitality and importance of the symbol in motion – in procession – rather than emblazoned on a coin or a door lintel. And from this processional vitality comes the second theme that struck me as key in the discussion of these symbols: their intrinsic agency as material things – that is, not just what they convey in terms of “memory” or “tradition” but their capacity to work in the world.

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Saturday, July 13, 2019

Trotter, The Jerusalem Temple in Diaspora

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
The Jerusalem Temple in Diaspora: Jewish Practice and Thought during the Second Temple Period

Series:
Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, Volume: 192

Author: Jonathan Trotter

In The Jerusalem Temple in Diaspora, Jonathan Trotter shows how different diaspora Jews’ perspectives on the distant city of Jerusalem and the temple took shape while living in the diaspora, an experience which often is characterized by complicated senses of alienation from and belonging to an ancestral homeland and one’s current home. This book investigates not only the perspectives of the individual diaspora Jews whose writings mention the Jerusalem temple (Letter of Aristeas, Philo of Alexandria, 2 Maccabees, and 3 Maccabees) but also the customs of diaspora Jewish communities linking them to the temple, such as their financial contributions and pilgrimages there.

Publication Date: 24 June 2019
ISBN: 978-90-04-40985-9

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Postdocs for LXX project

AT THE UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI: 2–3 POSTDOC­TORAL RE­SEARCH­ERS IN THE PRO­JECT THE SEP­TUAGINT AND ITS AN­CIENT VER­SIONS.

HT William Ross, who also gives some interesting background on the texts that the project is studying.

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Friday, July 12, 2019

Septuagint Song of Songs in French

WILLIAM ROSS: NEW VOLUME IN LA BIBLE D’ALEXANDRIE: SONG OF SONGS. It's good to have another volume in this series out.

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

Jason’s Tomb

THE HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: Jason’s Tomb (2nd Temple Period) (Carl Rasmussen).
Jason’s tomb is a beautiful funeral monument from the late Hellenistic – early Roman period. It was the tomb of a high priestly family that was forced out of Jerusalem in 172 B.C. (2 Maccabees 5:5-10) by their rival, Menelaus....
It is in West Jerusalem. Follow the link for photos.

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On digressions in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Neither Less Than X nor More Than Y. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ minima and maxima decorate the memory palaces Talmudic rabbis built to sustain the oral tradition of Babylonian learning.
The reason why digressions are so common in the Talmud is that it began as an oral tradition, not a written text—a vast memorized accumulation of the debates held in the Babylonian academies. What look like digressions on the page usually served some mnemonic purpose. The appearance of a certain sage’s name, for instance, might trigger the recollection of his opinions on different subjects. Often, the common principle is grammatical: When a teaching that takes a certain verbal form arises in the Gemara, the sages will recount other, unrelated laws that happen to follow the same pattern.
This is a deployment of the catchword principle, which was also a major feature of ancient Jewish exegesis of scripture. It is also used often in the New Testament.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Monday, July 08, 2019

Larry Hurtado

LARRY HURTADO: Health Issues and Blogging. Larry shares sad news. The leukemia for which he was treated last year has returned. There is little that can be done in the way of treatment. He has signed off indefinitely from further blogging.

We wish Larry and his family all the best. They will be in our thoughts and prayers.

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

Ezekiel's Merkavah anniversary 2019

TODAY IS THE 5TH OF TAMUZ: This Day in History – 5 Tamuz/July 8 (Harmodia).
In 3333, Yechezkel Hanavi received a nevuah at the river of Chebar about Maaseh Merkavah. That perek is read as the haftarah on Shavuos.
To unpack that, this is the anniversary of the prophecy of the prophet Ezekiel concerning Maaseh Merkavah, "the working of the chariot." This was a vision of the heavenly realm, some of its frightening denizens, and the throne of God and its occupant. It took place by the river Chebar in Babylonia in 593 BCE. The relevant biblical passage, Ezekiel chapter 1, is the prophetic synagogue reading on Shavuot. There are further details in the links below.

Past posts on this anniversary and on Ezekiel 1 and its mystical and cultural afterlife, are here and here. And this year's post from Shavuot is also relevant.

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Biblical Studies Carnival 161

ZWINGLIUS REDIVIVUS: The Incredibly Hot June Biblical Studies Carnival, Including Lots of Scandal Because of an Unprovenanced Manuscript…

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Babylon named a UNESCO World Heritage site.

HISTORICAL LANDMARK: Iraq celebrates naming Babylon a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was from the 4,300-year-old city that Nebuchadnezzar sent his vast army to Jerusalem to put down an uprising and bring the Jews back as slaves. (QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Times of Israel). This is a good development. I am sometimes hard on UNESCO, but they got this one right.

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Belated happy Cyril and Methodius Day 2019!

OLD CHURCH SLAVONIC WATCH: CZECHS MARK LEGACY OF GREEK MISSIONARIES CYRIL AND METHODIUS (Daniela Lazarová, Czech Radio). The work of Saints Cyril and Methodius, whose invention of the first Slavonic alphabet led to the preservation of much ancient literature that would otherwise have been lost, is celebrated by various traditions on 14 February, 24 May, and 5 July. Details here. Some of that ancient literature includes important Old Testament Pseudepgrapha. Details here and links.

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Saturday, July 06, 2019

Mapfeka, Esther in Diaspora

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Esther in Diaspora
Toward an Alternative Interpretive Framework


Series:
Biblical Interpretation Series, Volume: 178

Author: Tsaurayi Kudakwashe Mapfeka

In Esther in Diaspora, Tsaurayi Kudakwashe Mapfeka presents a new approach to the book of Esther in the Hebrew Bible. He argues that, whereas previous interpretations have emphasised an association with the Jewish festival of Purim, a theory-nuanced concept of diaspora offers the key for reading Esther. Alongside the relatively new approach of Diaspora Studies, the author makes use of the more traditional analogical reasoning, seeing parallels between the community behind Esther and the Zimbabwean diaspora community in the United Kingdom, of which he is a member. The two-fold methodological application results in an innovative and stimulating reading of the book. Overall, the book reflects a deep awareness not only of issues surrounding Esther but of the broader fields of the study of the Bible and of the ancient Near East.

Publication Date: 17 June 2019
ISBN: 978-90-04-40656-8

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Friday, July 05, 2019

More on the Huqoq mosaics

DECORATIVE ART: Teeming With Riddles, Israel's Most Beautiful Mosaic Reveals Ancient Liberal Judaism. The artwork covers the entire floor of a synagogue’s sanctuary, and every year, as each new section is unearthed, new figures and biblical scenes are being discovered (Nir Hasson, Haaretz premium).
For seven years now, archaeologists have been gradually exposing the mosaic floor of a synagogue in Huqoq in the lower Galilee. Each new excavation season reveals another bit of Israel’s richest and most beautiful floor.

Still, questions remain about the identity of the community that built this synagogue. And this year, the riddle has gotten even more puzzling. The latest dig reveals scenes from the mysterious prophecies of the prophet Daniel and a little-known episode from the Book of Exodus.

[...]

A nice overview of the discoveries at the ancient synagogue at Huqoq, especially its remarkable mosaics. Background here and follow the many links.

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

The Talmud on valuation of a human life

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: How Much Is a Jewish Life Worth? In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic sages make ‘valuations’ and ‘assessments’ of living people, in ancient actuarial tables with premiums paid at the Temple.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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The Philistines were Europeans?

GENETIC ANALYSIS: ARCHAEOLOGY SHOWS PHILISTINES, ENEMY OF ISRAELITES, CAME FROM EUROPE. "We found infants that were too young to travel... so they were born on site. And their DNA revealed [that] their parents’ heritage was not from the local population" (Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman, Jerusalem Post).
“When we found the infants – infants that were too young to travel... these infants couldn’t march or sail to get to the land around Ashkelon, so they were born on site. And their DNA revealed [that] their parents’ heritage was not from the local population,” Aja explained, referring to the new genetic input from the direction of Southern Europe that was found in bone samples taken from infants buried under the floors of Philistine homes, as was the custom during that period.
More on the Ashkelon cemetery is here.

For various reasons, some scholars have argued that the Philistines had an Aegean origin. These new results seem to be compatible with that hypothesis.

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A Phoenician Snail Dye Factory in Israel

PHOENICIAN WATCH: Mysterious Biblical-era Stronghold Was Actually a Phoenician Snail Dye Factory, Archaeologists Say. Tel Shikmona contains the ruins of a powerful edifice built where one shouldn’t have been, given the absence of harbor or beach – but the snails from which purple dye was made were there in droves (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz premium).

Murex shell dye was also used by the Israelites for the tekhelet dye. For more on the Phoenician and the Israelite uses of the dye, see here and links

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Thursday, July 04, 2019

Independence Day 2019

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY to my American readers!


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

The Christian Century on Alter's Bible translation

BOOK REVIEW: Robert Alter’s Hebrew Bible translation is at once accurate and eloquent. Precision and beauty have kissed (Judy Klitsner, The Christian Century).
With his groundbreaking translation, Alter has done no less than to turn a technical task into a vehicle for showcasing and celebrating the artistic glory of the Hebrew Bible. To the attuned reader, the Bible’s exquisite craftsmanship communicates the deeply affecting nature, as well as the eternal relevance, of an ancient, hallowed text.
With some good examples that I haven't seen before.

For more on the now-complete Alter translation of the Bible, start here and follow the many links.

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Wednesday, July 03, 2019

More Bible-themed mosaics from Huqoq

DECORATIVE ART: Uncovered 1,600-year-old Jewish art brings more of an unknown culture to light UNC-Chapel Hill’s Jodi Magness, researchers and students are the first to find a mosaic art depiction of a scene from the biblical book of Exodus. (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill). An interview with Professor Magness, the chief excavator, announces the discovery of two new mosaics in the Huqoq Synagogue:
If you could name the biggest discovery of this summer, what would it be?
First, Chapter 7 in the book of Daniel describes four beasts which represent the four kingdoms leading up to the end of days. This year our team discovered mosaics in the synagogue’s north aisle depicting these four beasts, as indicated by a fragmentary Aramaic inscription referring to the first beast: a lion with eagle’s wings. The lion itself is not preserved, nor is the third beast. However, the second beast from Daniel 7:4 — a bear with three ribs protruding from its mouth — is preserved. So is most of the fourth beast, which is described in Daniel 7:7 as having iron teeth.

Second, We’ve uncovered the first depiction of the episode of Elim ever found in ancient Jewish art. This story is from Exodus 15:27. Elim is where the Israelites camped after leaving Egypt and wandering in the wilderness without water. The mosaic is divided into three horizontal strips, or registers. We see clusters of dates being harvested by male agricultural workers wearing loincloths, who are sliding the dates down ropes held by other men. The middle register shows a row of wells alternating with date palms. On the left side of the panel, a man in a short tunic is carrying a water jar and entering the arched gate of a city flanked by crenellated towers. An inscription above the gate reads, “And they came to Elim.”
For past posts on the Huqoq excavation, its ancient synagogue, and its splendid mosaics, start here and follow the many links.

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Herod the Gardener?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Herod the Great’s Ancient Gardens (Marek Dospěl). As usual, this BHD essay is a summary of a BAR article. The full article by Kathryn L. Gleason, "Herod the Great Gardener," is behind the subscription wall.

For many past posts on Herod the Great and on related archaeological discoveries, start here and follow the links.

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

Review of Brill's Companion to the Reception of Plato in Antiquity

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW:
Harold Tarrant, Danielle A. Layne, Dirk Baltzly, François Renaud (ed.), Brill's Companion to the Reception of Plato in Antiquity. Brill's companions to classical reception, 13. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2018. Pp. xxi, 657. ISBN 9789004270695. €187,00. Reviewed by Adrian Pirtea, Freie Universität Berlin; Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences (adrian.pirtea@fu-berlin.de)
The volume includes chapters on Philo of Alexandria and on Sethian Gnostic Platonism.

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Shingal, the Yazidis, ancient Judaism, etc.

YAZIDI WATCH: Ezidi temples, Christian churches, Shia shrines, and historic civilizations: Shingal, an ancient town worth fighting to preserve (Levi Clancy, Kurdistan24).
Sinjar, known as Shingal in Kurdish, was catapulted into the world’s consciousness after the shocking Yezidi (Ezidi) genocide that emptied the town and surrounding villages in 2014. Lost in the aftermath of apocalyptic violence, however, is the seldom-discussed story of Shingal as a town of enormous cultural heritage that is nearly unrivaled to have all in one place: a medieval minaret, a soaring stone-built cathedral, stunning old homes, a universe of Ezidi temples going back to Sheikh Adi himself, and thousands of years of history from ancient Mesopotamia through the present day.

[...]
Aside from the Yazidi (Ezidi) connection, the region around Shingal/Sinjar also had associations with Judaism and Syriac Christianity in antiquity. This interesting article gives an overview of its history up to the present.

For many past posts on the Yazidis, their Gnosticism-themed religion, and their tragic fate in the hands of ISIS, start here and follow the links

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

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Samson the Demigod?

DR. NAPHTALI MESHEL: Samson the Demigod? (TheTorah.com).
Samson’s conception story may be read subversively as the result of a union between a divine being and a mortal woman, making Samson a demi-god with superhuman characteristics. At the same time, the text keeps open the more mundane possibility that his father is Manoah and his powers are simply a gift from God.
I was less skeptical about this proposal after I read this essay than when I started it.

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Early review of Scholem's "Jewish Gnosticism"

REPRINT REVIEW: Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition, by Gershom G. Scholem. Professor Scholem's latest work is a scholar's book--in both sense of that phrase (FEB, 1961 BY JAKOB J. PETUCHOWSKI, Commentary Magazine). Scholem's Jewish Gnosticism is outdated now, but it is a classic that did much to define the field of Hekhalot Studies. For an early response to it, read this review.

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Kotzé et al., eds., Ancient Texts and Modern Readers

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Ancient Texts and Modern Readers
Studies in Ancient Hebrew Linguistics and Bible Translation


Series:
Studia Semitica Neerlandica, Volume: 71

Editors: Gideon Kotzé, Christian S. Locatell and John A. Messarra

The chapters of this volume address a variety of topics that pertain to modern readers’ understanding of ancient texts, as well as tools or resources that can facilitate contemporary audiences’ interpretation of these ancient writings and their language. In this regard, they cover subjects related to the fields of ancient Hebrew linguistics and Bible translation. The chapters apply linguistic insights and theories to elucidate elements of ancient texts for modern readers, investigate how ancient texts help modern readers to interpret features in other ancient texts, and suggest ways in which translations can make the language and conceptual worlds of ancient texts more accessible to modern readers. In so doing, they present the results of original research, identify new lines and topics of inquiry, and make novel contributions to modern readers’ understanding of ancient texts.

Contributors are Alexander Andrason, Barry L. Bandstra, Reinier de Blois, Lénart J. de Regt, Gideon R. Kotzé, Geoffrey Khan, Christian S. Locatell, Kristopher Lyle, John A. Messarra, Cynthia L. Miller-Naudé, Jacobus A. Naudé, Daniel Rodriguez, Eep Talstra, Jeremy Thompson, Cornelius M. van den Heever, Herrie F. van Rooy, Gerrit J. van Steenbergen, Ernst Wendland, Tamar Zewi.

Publication Date: 7 June 2019
ISBN: 978-90-04-40291-1

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New members elected to Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities

BELATED CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL: Six new members elected to the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

In particular, Professor Michael Stone is well-known to PaleoJudaica readers as a premier specialist in ancient Judaism and Armenian Studies. And Professor Yehuda Liebes, a likewise premier specialist in Kabbalah, has been mentioned here.

Meanwhile, over at Haaretz, Shira Kadari-Ovadia has noted the awards with a criticism: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities Admits Six New Members, All Men.
Academy Director Galia Pinzi said that she is aware of the "distressing" lack of women in the organization's ranks, and that the selection of Academy members is made on the basis of excellence in research alone. "The number of women among Academy members reveals the lack of representation of women among in senior academic staff in institutions of higher education in Israel," she said.

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Monday, July 01, 2019

Opening of Pilgrim's Road

ARCHAEOLOGICAL POLITICS: NEW DISCOVERY IN JERUSALEM'S CITY OF DAVID: 2,000-YEAR-OLD PILGRIMAGE ROAD. The City of David has already changed Jerusalem. A new discovery there opening soon will change the way Jews connect with their past in a way never seen before (Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post).
As is often the case with archeology, though, the first discovery or two are just the beginning. That is how a few weeks ago I found myself on an exclusive tour of an ancient road dug out beneath the village of Silwan and above the now well-known water channel (also the place where Jewish rebels made a final stand against the Roman invaders).

The ancient street is referred to as “Pilgrimage Road,” since archeologists are convinced that this is the path millions of Jews took three times a year when performing the commandment of aliyah l’regel – going up to the holy city of Jerusalem to bring sacrifices to God during Judaism’s three key holidays, Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.

The Pilgrimage Road goes all the way from the Shiloah Pool to the area adjacent to the Western Wall known as Robinson’s Arch, where today you can still see remnants of the ancient stairway that led into the Jewish Temple.
I wouldn't call this a new discovery. The project has been around for a while. But aside from the headline, the article gives a good overview of the archaeological significance of the road. And there are lots of politics to go around too. See, for example, the following article:

FRIEDMAN, GREENBLATT ATTEND ARCHAEOLOGICAL INAUGURATION IN CITY OF DAVID. Emek Shaveh activists were removed by police from protesting against the Sunday opening of Pilgrim Road, which they call “Fighting Road” (Hagay Hacohen, Jerusalem Post).
US Ambassador David Friedman and US Middle East special envoy Jason Greenblatt attended the inauguration of Pilgrimage Road in the City of David on Sunday, triggering angry denunciations from Palestinian and left-wing circles for taking part in a “settler project.”

Ministers Rafi Peretz and Uri Ariel, US Senator Lindsey Graham, Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, Israel Antiquities Authority director Israel Hasson, and US billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam were also among those present at the event.

[...]
I noted the story of the broken sewage pipe in Jerusalem that lead to the uncovering of the first bit of road here, here, and here.

Some other past posts on the Pilgrim's Road Project in Jerusalem and the attendant politics are here, here, here, and here.

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A secret sale of biblical Oxyrhynchus fragments?

CANDIDA MOSS: Did Oxford Scholar Secretly Sell Bible Fragment to Hobby Lobby Family? The first-century antiquity is part of a collection at Oxford, but paperwork reportedly suggests it was sold by a professor (The Daily Beast). The fragments under discussion may have included the no-longer-first-century papyrus of the Gospel of Mark, on which more here and links.

This is a very complicated and messy story. I've been trying to get my head around it for a while. This essay by Professor Moss sums up the key information. For more details as they came out, see the recent posts by Brent Nongbri at his Variant Readings Blog. His most recent post, Jerry Pattengale on Dirk Obbink and the Mark Fragment, came out after Professor Moss's essay in the Daily Beast.

I'm not going to try to summarize the situation. And I'm certainly not going to offer an opinion on it. I note the discussion merely for your information. Let's keep an eye on what happens next.

UPDATE: The Evangelical Textual Criticism Blog has also been posting on this story.

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Forum on Boyarin’s "Judaism"

MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS: Daniel Boyarin’s Judaism: A Forum.

I was otherwise occupied in May when this forum on Judaism: The Genealogy of a Modern Notion (Rutgers University Press) commenced, and it only came to my attention recently as it finished up. There are eight essays by prominent scholars and a "Responsum" by Professor Boyarin. Follow the link for everything.

Another post on Professor Boyarin's new book is here. And Michael Satlow has some related comments, and notice of his new article on Philo's definition of "Judaism," here.

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The amazing migrating word

PHILOLOGOS: This Word Goes Back 4,000 Years and Spans Over a Dozen Languages. Variations of Hebrew’s misken, meaning “poor” or “unfortunate,” can be found from Italian to Swahili to Tagalog and far beyond (Mosaic Magazine). It looks as though this is an Akkadian word that spread to Aramaic, and then to all over the place.

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Sunday, June 30, 2019

On repatriating antiquities

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: First Person: Who Owns History? From the May/June 2019 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (Robert Cargill, chief editor of BAR).

Good question. I have offered my own answer, for example, here and here and links. I blog, you decide.

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

Review of Brill's Companion to the Reception of Alexander the Great (ed. Moore)

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Kenneth Royce Moore (ed.), Brill's Companion to the Reception of Alexander the Great. Brill's companions to classical reception, volume 14. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2018. Pp. 856. ISBN 9789004285071. €189,00. Reviewed by Christian Thrue Djurslev, Aarhus University (ctd@cas.au.dk). Excerpt:
Part II, ‘Later receptions in the Near- and Far East and the Romance tradition’, opens with much-needed studies of religious writers. Klęczar tackles Jewish tradition in an exemplary fashion, whereas Shahar revisits the Jerusalem episode. Nawotka and Wojciechowska quantify evidence from Coptic Egypt over a long period of time. Jouanno is the right person to offer a chapter on the Byzantine corpus, and I was impressed with the paleographical discussion of the (Greek) authors I found missing in Part I. She reminds us that Arrian, Plutarch and Diodorus were read for many other reasons in Byzantium. Peltonen surveys some essential references in early Christian authors, although I am not persuaded by all of his readings. Blythe provides some good summaries of inaccessible material from medieval Italy, which complements and updates Cary’s book on the Medieval Alexander (Cambridge, 1956). Nawotka revisits many important issues regarding the Alexander Romance in Syria and Persia, again with solid summaries of relevant texts. The last paper is the only one that overlaps with content from Zuwiyya’s Brill volume from 2011.
I noted the publication of the book last year.

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Saturday, June 29, 2019

More on the Beit Shemesh exhibition

ROADWORKS VS. ARCHAEOLOGY, CONTINUED: A FOCUS ON BEIT SHEMESH. Beit Shemesh, at the crossroads between Jerusalem and coast, has been inhabited since earliest times, going back to the pre-biblical Canaanite civilization from whom its idolatrous name originates (MORDECHAI BECK, Jerusalem Post).
The Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem saw a unique opportunity for creating a special exhibition dedicated to this site and to the issues it raised. According to the director, Amanda Weiss, the decision to create an exhibition happened spontaneously. “One of our guides told me about the finds that were being uncovered there,” said Weiss. “She said to me ‘You must come and see for yourself while they are digging.’ So I grabbed Leora (her deputy) and a couple of other of the curators and rushed down in my car. This was last November. It was a very memorable day. Not only was it an exciting place to visit – we saw the site in the pouring rain! We were drenched, but that was part of the experience, with all the beautiful fragrances of the flowers. In just four months we arranged this exhibition.”
For background on the exhibition and on the controversy over Highway 38 and the site of Beit Shemesh, start here and follow the links.

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Was the Sotah rite for saving marriages?

PROF HANNA LISS: The Sotah Ritual: Permitting a Jealous Husband to Remain with His Wife (TheTorah.com).
The root ק.נ.א “jealous zeal” in the chapter on the sotah (Numbers 5) highlights a key goal of the ritual and its accompanying offering, namely, to remove the husband’s jealous zeal and allow him to remain with his wife without guilt.
A couple of past posts on the Sotah rite and its postbiblical interpretation are here and here.

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Friday, June 28, 2019

Deciphering ancient stonemasons' marks at Hippos-Sussita

ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE: Israeli Archaeologists Discover How Ancient Romans Pulled Off Their Monumental Architecture. Ikea didn’t invent the DIY diagram: Ancient stonecutters wanted credit for their efforts just like any artist, signed their work — and also marked the stone blocks with building instructions (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz premium).
At Hippos-Sussita, about 20 percent of the heavy basalt stone-block flooring bears masons’ marks. “We managed to identify 20 different types,” Kowalewska shares. “It is entirely possible that the quarriers couldn’t read or write, but they did know how to make their marks.”

Also, the marks can be a tool for reconstruction of buildings, providing they are preserved on many of the stones. If the marked stone has been reused, they can tell from which structure it was taken. Besides their usefulness for archaeologists, these marks also serve as a simple reminder of all the hard work undertaken by the builders of the past.

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Tomb of the Kings to reopen?

THEOLOGICAL POLITICS: RESTING PLACES OF ADIABENIAN JEWISH QUEEN TO RE-OPEN. The tombs, discovered in Jerusalem by Louis Félicien de Saulcy in 1863, are owned by the French government since 1885 (Hagay Hacohen, Jerusalem Post).
French authorities announced on Wednesday that the site should be open to the public, while Foreign Minister Israel Katz lauded their decision.
The site is generally, although not universally, understood to be the burial ground of the dynasty of Queen Helena of Adiabene. I hope that this new announcement means that the legal issues around the site have been resolved and it will indeed be reopening. For background on Queen Helena and on the site, start here (cf. here) and follow the links.

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On Boyarin on the origin of "Judaism"

NEW BOOK: How Christians Invented 'Judaism,' According to a Top Talmud Scholar. One of the greatest living scholars of the Talmud, Daniel Boyarin ponders the place where the two traditions were born, in brotherly rivalry but with a common biblical origin (Tomer Persico, Haaretz premium).
His latest book thus joins a series of studies that call into question the popular-naive conception of Judaism. Starkly put, Boyarin asserts that until a few hundred years ago, there was no such thing as “Judaism,” in the sense of an abstract category of thought and thus of life. Indeed, the term is not found in the Torah, Prophets or Writings, the Mishna or Talmud, the works of the early medieval Geonim, of Rabbi Judah Halevi or of Maimonides. None of them knew of the existence of such a thing as “Judaism.” The term’s first appearances date from the 12th century (for example, in the “Midrash Sekhel Tov,” by Rabbi Menachem Ben Shlomo), and even then it denotes not a particular culture or a particular religion but a condition – that is, the condition of being a Jewish person.
In antiquity there was no distinction between nationhood and religion. You worshipped your national god(s). Judaism arose in that environment and retains the concept of a national identity.

I haven't read Professor Boyarin's new book (Judaism: The Genealogy of a Modern Notion, Rutgers University Press), so I can't comment on it. Dr. Persico has some criticisms. Have a look at the article and see what you think.

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More on Hebrew historical linguistics from Rezetko and Young

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Do We Really Think That There Is No Historical Linguistics of Ancient Hebrew?

Ancient Hebrew like all natural languages evolved through time, and silhouettes of its history are traceable in the literary writings of the Hebrew Bible. But, historical linguistics is not text-dating, and the latter is what Hendel and Joosten’s How Old Is the Hebrew Bible? is largely about.

See Also: How Old Is the Hebrew Bible?, Can the Ages of Biblical Literature be Discerned Without Literary Analysis?, Flawed Philology

By Robert Rezetko
Research Associate
Radboud University Nijmegen & University of Sydney

By Ian Young
Associate Professor
Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies
University of Sydney
April 2019
As you can see from the "See Also" links, this discussion has been going on for some time. At this point, it is of interest mainly to specialists who are working on the specific problem of historical linguistics of ancient Hebrew.

I have also noted the discussion here and links.

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Monday, June 24, 2019

Weitzman on the Origin of the Jews

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Genealogical Bewilderment: Between the Scholarly and the Personal in the Quest for the Origin of the Jews (Steven Weitzman).
In two recent publications—Solomon: the Lure of Wisdom and The Origin of the Jews: a Quest for Roots in a Rootless Age—I have written works that seem to be about antiquity but are really about how we relate to antiquity from a vantage point in the present. I write as someone genuinely curious about what we can learn from ancient texts by reading them in relation to their history, and for much of my scholarly career, my goal has been to avoid casting the past as a projection of the present. In these works, however, I have tried a different approach, allowing myself into the story in the hope that doing so can lead to a deeper understanding of how we relate to antiquity. Focusing on the Origin of the Jews, I want to reflect on what I was able to learn about my subject from mixing the personal and the scholarly in this way.

[...]
For more on Steven Weitzman's work, see here and links.

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Saturday, June 22, 2019

Writing a Torah scroll on Masada

MORE MASADA: INSCRIBING THE JEWISH FUTURE ON MASADA. “By writing a Torah on Masada, we are continuing what the Romans wanted to stop 2,000 years ago,” said Rabbi Shimshon Israeli (ALAN ROSENBAUM, Jerusalem Post).
“By writing a Torah on Masada, we are continuing what the Romans wanted to stop 2,000 years ago,” said Rabbi Shimshon Israeli, the scribe who works each day in the renovated synagogue housing the scrolls. “The Romans are no longer here, but we continue to write the Torah.”
As you might imagine, the article also mentions Josephus.

For some past posts on Masada, see here and links.

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Josephus podcasts

MORE JOSEPHUS: TVL1 has a series of podcasts on the work of Flavius Josephus. So far:

Josephus’s “Jewish Antiquities”

“The Life:” The Biography of Flavius Josephus

They have some introductory comments on Josephus and readings from the old, but still usable, Whiston translation.

I have only listened to the first, but it was good.

More on Josephus here and links.

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Josephus, Jeremiah, and the Essenes

WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT OF JOSEPHUS, Bible History Daily has a couple of recent essays on him:

Titus Flavius Josephus and the Prophet Jeremiah. Avishai Margalit contrasts the legacies of a historian and a prophet. That's an interesting way to think about him.

Josephus on the Essenes.

Both essays link to BAR articles that give additional information, but are behind the subscription wall.

There are many, many, past PaleoJudaica posts on Josephus. For some of them, see here and links. For the rest, see the archives.

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Review of Magness, Masada: From Jewish Revolt to Modern Myth

BOOK REVIEW: Is one of history’s most rousing speeches apocryphal? Eleazar Ben-Yair’s death-and-glory address at Masada in AD 73 may have been fabricated by Josephus. But that hasn’t deterred devotees from flocking to the site (Justin Marozzi, The Spectator).
Magness ends with a practical and refreshingly non-academic visitors’ guide to Masada. Should you ever visit the place and hear a lot of noise at the top while searching for your inner Eleazar Ben-Yair, you can blame her. ‘Before leaving,’ she writes, ‘listen to the amazing echo created by the sheer cliff of Mount Eleazar opposite, by shouting as loudly as possible across the chasm’.

Masada: From Jewish Revolt to Modern Myth
Author: Jodi Magness
Publisher: Princeton
Page count: 242
Price: £20
For past PaleoJudaica posts on the history and archaeology of, and revisionist views on, Masada, see here and links. And some subsequent Masada-related posts are here, here, here, and here.

For more on Professor Magness and her work, see here, here, here, and links.

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Friday, June 21, 2019

Geniza Fragments 77

GENIZA FRAGMENTS, the Newsletter of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit, Cambridge University Library has published its April 2019 Issue. Topics include news on more fragments of an early Torah scroll (see also here, here, here, and here, and links), an obituary for Joel L. Kraemer, and a new book on Ben Sira.

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Magical amulets among the Dead Sea Scrolls?

DECIPHERED DEAD SEA SCROLLS POSE QUESTIONS FOR HISTORIANS. Deciphered by Prof. Ariel and Faina Feldman, the segments written in semi-cursive script, folded and were encased in small leather remnants (ALEX WINSTON, Jerusalem Post).
However, unlike tefillin, which contain parchments quoting the Book of Exodus or Deuteronomy, the previously undechipered writing was found found to be prayers and the names of angels, components which are consistent with Jewish amulets, which whilst using holy words, did not directly quote from the Bible.
This is intriguing and could be very important. It would be the first evidence for the existence of Jewish magical amulets in the Second Temple period.

I have not yet had a chance to look up the two peer-reviewed articles mentioned at the end of this article. But I look forward to reading them.

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Letters in defense of Peter Schäfer

CONTROVERSY: Jewish Studies Scholars Support Resigned Director of Berlin’s Jewish Museum with Two Public Letters. Leading Jewish studies scholars came out in defense of Peter Schäfer, himself a prominent Talmud Scholar, and called accusations of anti-Semitism against him “false” and “outrageous” (Hakim Bishara, Hyperallergic). This situation only came to my attention very recently. As regular readers know, I have had other things on my mind.

Professor Schäfer is a superstar in the field of Jewish studies. His work has had a massive influence on mine. I have the highest respect for him and confidence in him. That does not mean I always agree with him. I have yet to meet that person.

To be quite clear, I utterly reject BDS. I also respect free speech. Let controversial ideas be debated so that the bad ones can be debunked and discredited through rational discourse.

It is also worth underlining that the twitter account* of the Jewish Museum of Berlin clarified that the link to the article in question was not intended to take a position against the resolution against BDS by the German Bundestag. I accept that clarification.

Sometimes people do not express themselves clearly in the first instance. I don't want to live in a hell world where they can't clarify what they say. Or, for that matter, even change their mind upon reflection.

Beyond that, I should let Professor Schäfer speak for himself. He addresses the major points of criticism in this interview in Der Spiegel. Google English translation here.

For some past posts on Professor Schäfer, see here.

*The original link to the twitter account was incorrect. Now corrected. Sorry for the error.

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New documentary on the Cairo Geniza

THE ETC BLOG: From Cairo to the Cloud: The World of the Cairo Geniza (John Meade). I agree that the trailer looks great, but the DVD is pretty expensive.

For many past posts on the Cairo Geniza, see here, here, and here and links.

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Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Talmud on when human life begins.

A RECENT DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: When Does Human Life Begin? This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study happens to pit contemporary abortion law against Jewish views of conception and viability in all animals. Indirectly, but yes.

Other Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A Geniza Torah fragment with nonstandard Tiberian vocalization

GENIZA FRAGMENT OF THE MONTH (APRIL 2019): Standard Tiberian Pronunciation in a Non-Standard Form: T-S AS 64.206 (Estara J. Arrant).
To summarise, we have a grouping of features in T-S AS 64.206 which together demonstrate that while the scribe used pataḥ, shewa, and ḥatef pataḥ in unique ways, he took measures to ensure that they did not lead to confusion with regards to the silent shewa and quiescent letters. Therefore, the text was mainly still pronounced according to the rigours of the ST tradition. This represents a tidy compromise between the scribe's individualistic use of particular signs and the accepted Tiberian pronunciation of the text. This unique document reminds us that non-standard placement of vowel signs does not always result in a non-standard reading of the text.
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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The Yazidis

NOT BY EVERYONE: The Yazidis - the forgotten people. Opinion: The Yazidis are today the most oppressed people on earth - yet are totally forgotten by the United Nations and liberal aid groups (Joseph Frager, MD, Arutz Sheva).

PaleoJudaica's readers have been hearing about the Yazidis since 2003 (see links collected here). And for many additional PaleoJudaica posts on the Yazidis, their Gnosticism-themed religion, and their tragic fate in the hands of ISIS, start here and follow the many links. Cross-file under Yazidi Watch.

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Ritual impurity or contagious disease?

DR. YITZHAK FEDER: Tum’ah: Ritual Impurity or Fear of Contagious Disease? (TheTorah.com).
Already in the early 2nd millennium B.C.E., people knew that diseases were contagious, and fear of contagion plays a key role in the Torah’s laws regarding the skin ailment, tzaraʿat. What does this mean for understanding other kinds of tum’ah?
It makes sense to me that fear of contagious disease (in our terminology) was included in the ancient concept of ritual impurity. But the ancients did not have our modern germ theory. Ritual purity for them was a broader concept. It is somewhat artificial to try to parse our distinctions out of it.

That said, this is a good and thought-provoking essay. Have a look.

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PhD thesis: Elder, The Media Matrix of Early Jewish and Christian Literature

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight | The Media Matrix of Early Jewish and Christian Literature (Nicholas Elder). A recent PhD thesis from Marquette University.
Taken together, the application of my five criteria to Joseph and Aseneth and Mark and the afterlives of these texts makes the case that there are remarkable similarities between the two narratives, explained by composition via dictation.
For some earlier comments on Joseph and Aseneth see here and links. And some related posts are here, here, here, and here. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Monday, June 17, 2019

Review of Newman, Before the Bible

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Before the Bible: The Liturgical Body and the Formation of Scriptures in Early Judaism (David Skelton).
Judith Newman. Before the Bible: The Liturgical Body and the Formation of Scriptures in Early Judaism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.
Excerpt:
Newman’s book is a breath of fresh air and a welcome change of course that squarely places embodiment and performance at the heart of scripturalization. For Newman a text is not simply available for liturgy only after it becomes scripture. Rather, liturgy influences the textual composition process, stimulates textual growth, and creates textual authority before the process of canonization begins. ...

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The antiquities market in Israel

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Antiquities Market—A “Cat and Mouse Game.” How the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Theft Prevention Unit stays one step ahead of the black market (Abigail VanderHart).
In the Middle East today, Israel is the only country with a legal antiquities market. Because of this, the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Theft Prevention Unit has become a global expert in understanding how the antiquity market works—and how it doesn’t.

[...]

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Meade, A Critical Edition of the Hexaplaric Fragments of Job 22–42

THE ETC BLOG: New Book: A Critical Edition of the Hexaplaric Fragments of Job 22–42 (John Meade). John Meade's forthcoming book should be out in the autumn. This post gives you some information on it. For an earlier post by John on the project, see here.

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Palmyrene bust at the Getty Museum

PALMYRA WATCH: Ancient Portrait Bust from Palmyra Joins the Collection of the Getty Villa (Dr. Kenneth Lapatin, J. Paul Getty Museum via Brewminate).

Introduction

Hadirat Katthina has come to the Getty Villa. The J. Paul Getty Museum recently acquired the portrait of a woman who lived—and died—in the fabled ancient Syrian caravan city of Palmyra around the years 200 to 220. She is named by an inscription above her left shoulder in the local dialect of Aramaic that also identifies her as the daughter of Sha’ad and ends with the poignant exclamation “Alas.” Similar inscriptions appear on many of the funerary reliefs from Palmyra, sited advantageously at an oasis midway between the River Euphrates and the Mediterranean.

[...]
For many other past posts on Palmyra, its history, the ancient Aramaic dialect spoken there (Palmyrene), and the city's tragic reversals of fortune, now trending for the better, start here (cf. here) and follow the links.

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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Cho, Royal Messianism and the Jerusalem Priesthood in the Gospel of Mark

NEW BOOK FROM BLOOMSBURY/T&T CLARK:
Royal Messianism and the Jerusalem Priesthood in the Gospel of Mark

By: Bernardo Cho

Published: 21-03-2019
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 264
ISBN: 9780567685759
Imprint: T&T Clark
Series: The Library of New Testament Studies
Volume: 607
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
RRP: £85.00
Online price: £76.50

About Royal Messianism and the Jerusalem Priesthood in the Gospel of Mark

Bernardo K. Cho investigates how Jewish messianism from the mid-second century BCE to the late first-century CE envisaged the proper relation between the Israelite king and the Jerusalem priests in the ideal future, and then proceeds to describe how the Gospel of Mark addresses this issue in depicting Jesus.

Cho responds to claims that the Markan Jesus regards the kingdom of God as fundamentally opposed to the ancient Levitical system, and argues that, just as with most of its related Jewish literature, the earliest Gospel assumes the expectation that the royal messiah would bring the Jerusalem institution to its eschatological climax. But Mark also depicts Jesus's stance towards the priests in terms of a call to allegiance and warning of judgement. Cho concludes that the Markan Jesus anticipates the destruction of the Jerusalem temple because the priests have rejected Israel's end-time ruler and thus placed themselves outside the messianic kingdom.
Follow the link for the TOC and ordering information.

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Friday, June 14, 2019

Wedding at site of ancient Italian synagogue

ARCHAEOLOGY AND MATRIMONY: Europe’s Second-Oldest Synagogue Hosts First Wedding in 1,500 (Aryeh Savir, Tazpit News Agency/Jewish Press).
The wedding took place last Tuesday in the archaeological park adjacent to the southern Italian seaside village of Bova Marina where the remains of a synagogue were unearthed in 1983 during the construction of a road. Among the artifacts discovered at the site were a mosaic floor with colorful tiles portraying images of a Menorah, a shofar, and a lulav and etrog, as well as a walled niche where the Aron Kodesh, the Holy Ark which contained Torah scrolls, once stood.
Congratulations to the happy couple!

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Enoch and the astronaut

EXHIBITION: Restored Enoch Scroll, Israeli astronaut diary now on view. Two manuscripts that survived against all odds through time and space are the focus of a new exhibition at the Israel Museum (Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c).

The Enoch manuscript is one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. I can't find information on which one specifically. The remains of the diary of Ilan Ramon, which survived the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, was also on display at the Israel Museum in 2008.

Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

UPDATE (16 June): A reader informs me that the Enoch manuscript is 4Q209, fragments of the Aramaic Astronomical Book.

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The Talmud on firstborns and fetuses

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Price of a Firstborn. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the biblical redemption of a woman’s eldest opens logical byways into cesarean sections, stillbirths, and when Jewish life begins.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links. And for more on caesarean section in antiquity, see here.

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Gemology at Bar Ilan University

MATERIAL CULTURE: Bar Ilan Expanding into Archaeological Gemology (David Israel, Jewish Press). Cross-file under ancient Bling.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

AJR: Textual Objects and Material Philology

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Textual Objects and Material Philology.
These essays were part of a panel at the Society of Biblical Literature 2018 Annual Meeting titled, “Textual Objects and Material Philology,” inspired in part by the publication of Snapshots of Evolving Traditions (eds. Lied and Lundhaug).
The individual essays are as follows:

Is Vienna hist. gr. 63, fol. 51v-55v a “fragment”? (Janet Spittler)

A Material History of the Tura Papyri (Blossom Stefaniw)

Continue to Sing, Miriam! The Song of Miriam in 4Q365 (Hanna Tervanotko)

Two languages, two scripts, three combinations: A (personal?) prayer-book in Syriac and Old Uyghur from Turfan (U 338) (Adam Bremer-McCollum)

The Plunders of Codex Bezae (Jennifer Wright Knust)

Textual Scholarship, Ethics, and Someone Else's Manuscripts (Liv Ingeborg Lied)

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Aramaic liturgical poetry for Shavuot

ARAMAIC WATCH: Dramatizing Torah Reading with Aramaic Liturgical Poetry (Dr. Abraham J. Berkovitz, TheTorah.com).
In late antiquity and medieval times, the reading of the Torah and haftara was often accompanied with an Aramaic translation and Aramaic poems. Akdamut Milin and Yatziv Pitgam are the remnants of a once vibrant collection of Shavuot poems, some of which connect specific laws of the Decalogue with biblical stories, while others dramatized the revelation at Sinai with tales of Moses’ experiences in heaven.
For more on late-antique Jewish Aramaic liturgical and non-liturgical poetry, see here and links.

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Global Coptic Day - June 1st

COPTIC WATCH: First Ever Global Coptic Day Celebrated on 1 June 2019 (Egyptian Streets). I'm very happy to hear about this new annual celebration. Unfortunately I missed it this year. But I look forward to it in future years.

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Review of "The World between Empires" Exhibition

AT THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART: Exhibit suggests 'peaceful pluralism' among ancient Jews, Christians and pagans (Menachem Wecker, National Catholic Reporter).
It takes more than 80 pages for Jesus to receive his first curtain call, but the exhibit and the thorough catalog address Jewish and Christian religious practices and beliefs at length. The show teases out a potential historical interpretation of Jews, Christians and polytheists living in "peaceful pluralism" on certain sites, like Dura-Europos in present-day Syria. That theory, however, is offset by another of the religions attacking each other in propagandist decorations in their sacred spaces and trying to convert one another. And even if some of the highlighted sites evidenced enviable tolerance, too many in troubled areas have been looted recently by militants aiming to erase other cultures, to make money on the black artifact market, or both.
An earlier post on the exhibition is here. I don't think I realized that it includes the Magadala Stone (cf. here), which PaleoJudaica has mentioned often. And for many past posts on Dura Europos, start here and follow the links.

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Monday, June 10, 2019

The Temple Mount Sifting Project resumes

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: Temple Mount Sifting Project reboots, aims to salvage ancient temple artifacts. At Jerusalem Day event, minister vows funds for project in which 500,000 artifacts from all eras of J’lem settlement have already been found in dirt illegally dumped by Muslim Waqf (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
After a two-year hiatus, the project, up and running again since Sunday, is now housed in a previously abandoned tree-filled grove in east Jerusalem, located at the nexus of the Mount of Olives and Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus. As in the previous nearby location, paying volunteers sort through a jumble of debris and earth that was illegally excavated by Muslim authorities from the Temple Mount, a site holy to all three monotheistic religions.
This is a long, detailed article, that discusses the history of the project and the current political situation around it.

For many past posts going back many years, start here and follow the links. Also, do have a look at the recent posts on the reboot and the Jerusalem Day exhibition at the Temple Mount Sifting Project Blog.

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Resurrecting ancient Israelite beer

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: 5,000-year-old yeast is being used by Israeli scientists to brew a pretty good beer (Marcy Oster, JTA).

Over the years, I have noted various efforts to reconstruct ancient Israelite and Near Eastern beer and wine. But this takes it to the next level. The scientists used archaeologically recovered ancient yeast to brew the beer. It came from various sites in Israel dating from the fourth millennium BCE to the fourth century BCE. It's hard to get more authentic than that!

Be sure and follow the link at the end of the JTA article to read the scientific article on which it is based.

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The Talmud on donkeys and milk

A RECENT DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Blood and Milk. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’: Why are Jews allowed to drink milk at all? Plus: what Talmudic rabbis misunderstood about menstruation and the sources of other bodily fluids. Also: the right way to sacrifice a donkey.

Other Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Thesis on divine knowledge in the Hodayot

HELSINKI PHD THESIS: Transmission of divine knowledge in the sapiential Thanksgiving Psalms from Qumran (PhysOrg).
A recently completed doctoral dissertation in Old Testament studies supports a notion gained through prior research, according to which scribes and wisdom teachers had a central role in transmitting divine knowledge in the Second Temple period (approximately 200 BCE-70 CE).

Katri Antin has investigated how the transmission of divine knowledge, or divination, is described in the seven sapiential Thanksgiving Psalms, part of the Dead Sea Scrolls found in the Qumran Caves.

[...]

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Saturday, June 08, 2019

Shavuot 2019

THE FESTIVAL OF SHAVUOT (Weeks, Pentecost) begins tonight at sundown. Best wishes to all those celebrating. For biblical background see the links here.

For posts on the haftarah reading for the first day of Shavuot (Ezekiel 1) see here and links.

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Review of Monerie, L'économie de la Babylonie à l'époque hellénistique

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Julien Monerie, L'économie de la Babylonie à l'époque hellénistique. Studies in Ancient Near Eastern records, 14​. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2018. Pp. xvii, 577. ISBN 9781501510670. €189,95. Reviewed by R.J. van der Spek, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (robartus.vanderspek@gmail.com).
In the past, the arrival of Alexander the Great has been seen as a deep rupture in the history of Greece as well as in the history of the Near East. In Greece it would have marked the end of the independent city-state, in the Near East the end of the former Mesopotamian civilizations. Most textbooks on the history of the Near East end with Alexander the Great. In a more recent past this picture has changed. It was observed that Alexander the Great left many institutions unchanged and the Seleucid empire was considered a direct successor to the former Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian empires. Monerie correctly takes now a more nuanced stance. Although there is a lot of continuity, changes are considerable. Monerie points to the introduction of money, the foundation of many cities and the political innovations in existing cities, the shift of the gravity of Babylonia from the Euphrates (Babylon) to the Tigris and Diyala area (Seleucia); the gradual weakening of the temples; the reduction of royal domain in favor of cities.
I noted the publication of the book here.

I am glad to see that good use is increasing being made of the many thousands of economic cuneiform tablets. They are boring individually, but collectively they have much to tell us about ancient Mesopotamian society in all periods.

Likewise, the neglected history of Babylonia in the Persian and Hellenistic periods has been receiving increasing interest from scholars. This book is another example. For some past posts, see here and links. This history is of no little interest for Judaism of the Second Temple Period.

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Friday, June 07, 2019

On Ezekiel's chariot vision

PROF. CARL S. ERLICH: Ezekiel’s Vision of God and the Chariot (TheTorah.com).
How are we to understand Ezekiel’s bizarre vision of the chariot in its historical context? What makes it theologically so dangerous in the eyes of the rabbis?
Regular readers are aware that Ezekiel's Merkavah vision is one of my favorite things.

Ezekiel chapter one is read on the first day of Shavuot, which this year is 8-9 June (i.e., starts tomorrow!). The traditional date of his vision is the fifth of Tammuz (see here and here), which this year is on July 8-9. Follow those links for much more on Ezekiel one and its history of interpretation.

For more on goofy Erich von Däniken, see here and links. For more on the history of the interpretation of the "terrible ice" of Ezekiel 1:22, see here. For more on the cherubim, see here and here.

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Orlov receives research award

CONGRATULATIONS TO PROFESSOR ORLOV! Marquette theology professor honored with fellowship award. Dr. Andrei Orlov has studied Jewish apocalyptic texts, with a focus on materials preserved in Slavonic, for the past 25 years (Marquette University/Urban Milwaukee).
The Way Klingler fellowship will allow Orlov to translate an important text that has remained unreachable for international scholarship for over a century. Orlov plans to complete the three-volume edition of the Slavonic historical compendium, the Palaea Interpretata. It represents the most extensive and important collection of Jewish pseudepigraphic texts and fragments that have survived the Slavonic environment. The collection remains untranslated into any European language and is virtually unknown to contemporary biblical scholarship.
Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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The Talmud on theodicy

A RECENT DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Nesting Habits. This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ tackles the eternal problem of theodicy: If God is both good and omnipotent, why is there evil in the world?

For some past posts on Acher (Aher, "the Other One," i.e., Elijah ben Avuyah) see here and links.

Other Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Hasmonean-era coin found at Shiloh

NUMISMATICS: ANCIENT COIN DISCOVERED DURING BRAZILIAN VISIT TO SHILOH. Elected officials from Brazil just happened to be visiting the archaeological excavation in the Benjamin Region when the coin was discovered (Jerusalem Post).

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Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Amy-Jill Levine lecturing in St. Andrews today

THIS AFTERNOON AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ST. ANDREWS:
Understanding Jesus means understanding Judaism.
1:00 pm - 4:30 pm Parliament Hall

Biblical scholar, Amy-Jill Levine, will present a paper: ‘Understanding Jesus means Understanding Judaism’. This will be moderated by Madhavi Nevader.

Following her paper there will be a tea and coffee break and a fireside chat in the same location.
If you happen to be in St. Andrews today, this is very worth attending.

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Who decided what went into the Hebrew Bible and when?

CANONICAL QUESTIONS: Who Decided What Books the Hebrew Bible Would Contain? The canonization of the Hebrew Bible into its final 24 books was a process that lasted centuries, and was only completed well after the time of Josephus (Elon Gilad, Haaretz Premium). This is basically a good article that covers the topic in detail.

One could debate this or that point in it. For example, the final break between Judaism and Samaritanism may have come considerably later than the fourth century. And Josephus and 4 Ezra may have had the same canon of literature in mind, but divided into books slightly differently, giving the respective number of 22 and 24 books for the same collection.

Also, it's worth mentioning again that arguably the written Torah of Nehemiah and Ezra contained material not found in our Pentateuch.

But overall the article is good.

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