Saturday, April 20, 2019

PaleoJudaica is going on hiatus

MY DEAR READERS AND FRIENDS,

Unfortunately, my family and I are coping with some very difficult personal circumstances at present. These circumstances are going to continue for some time. I don't know how long.

With much regret, I am placing PaleoJudaica on indefinite hiatus.

Have a blessed Passover and a blessed Easter. I will be back with you as soon as I can.

Jim

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

Friday, April 19, 2019

Passover 2019

HAPPY PASSOVER (PESACH) TO ALL THOSE CELEBRATING! The festival begins this evening at sundown. Last year's Passover post is here and it has many Passover links. Relevant biblical texts are collected here. One other Passover-related post for 2019 is here.

Passover-related posts for 2018 are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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

Thursday, April 18, 2019

On Coptic magic, the Golden Bough, and timeless superstition

THE COPTIC MAGIC BLOG: Anthropology of Magic III: Superstitions in Antiquity and Today – Nothing Has Changed (Markéta Preininger Svobodová).

The firs post in this series was noted here. I seem to have missed the second, by the same author: Anthropology of Magic II: Frazer and the Golden Bough.

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

Mark Zvi Brettler reflects on Krister Stendahl

THE HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL: Reflections from Krister Stendahl’s Academic Neighbor.
In November 2018, the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature sponsored a session “Krister among the Jews and Gentiles,” to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the death of Krister Stendahl, who taught at HDS from 1954-1989, with a hiatus to serve as Bishop of Stockholm; he served as Dean of HDS from 1968-1979.

The following is a revision of comments presented by Marc Zvi Brettler, the Bernice and Morton Lerner Professor of Jewish Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at Duke University, and the Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies Emeritus and former chair of the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Gold coin of Theodosius II found in the Galilee

NUMISMATICS: 1,600-year-old gold coin of emperor who abolished Sanhedrin discovered by pupils. Byzantine ruler created the 438 Theodosian law code, which collected the thousands of imperial laws of the sprawling empire and officially made Jews second-class citizens (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).

According to the IAA, this is the first such coin discovered in Israel.

It chances that PaleoJudaica has a recent post on the Theodosian Code and Judaism here.

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

The Holy Stairs uncovered

RELICS: 'Holy Stairs' Opened for 1st Time in Nearly 300 Years. But Did Jesus Really Climb Them? (Owen Jarus, Live Science).

It seems not. Massive marble constructions were not characteristic of Jerusalem in the time of Jesus. And the actual stairs of Pilate's praetorium would have been destroyed with the rest of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., long before Queen Helena's time.

The stairs are an impressive piece of architecture, whatever their true origin. Did Queen Helena bring them from Palestine in the fourth century? Is that a legend too? What are they and when and where were they made? Does anyone know? Google is uninformative.

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Notre Dame cathedral and Jewish history

THE NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL is of some importance for medieval Jewish history in France and Europe. Here are a couple of articles on the topic.

Notre Dame’s Surprising Jewish Treasures. The destroyed cathedral still retains priceless art depicting Jewish heritage in France (Dr. Yvette Alt Miller, Aish.com).
As French officials survey the wreckage of Notre Dame, it’s becoming clear that the front facade of the cathedral is largely intact. These irreplaceable artistic treasures depicting the history of Jews in France seem to be saved. They can teach us a great deal about Jewish history and fortitude in France and beyond.
A lot of that history was terrible. But if it weren't for the cathedral's decorative art, we would know considerably less about it.

This article offers some more obscure details about the cathedral: Notre Dame Has Been Everything From a Honeybee Home to a Pagan Temple (Stephanie Eckardt, W via Yahoo News). I can't vouch for the specifics on this one, but read it and make your own judgment.

Yesterday's post on the fire is here. The latest I can find on the current state of the cathedral is here. So far, my summary in the previous post seems to be holding up.

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Another interview with Elaine Pagels

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Pagels traverses grief, healing and the nature of belief in ‘Why Religion?’ (Jamie Saxton).
In her acclaimed 2018 book, “Why Religion? A Personal Story,” Elaine Pagels, the Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion, interweaves her own account of unimaginable loss with the scholarly work that she loves, examining the spiritual dimension of human experience.
The article includes an interview with Professor Pagels. Excerpt:
You call your work — teaching and research — “a kind of yoga.” How so?

Yoga is about opening the heart. It is also a practice that challenges me, that sharpens understanding, that increases flexibility. And my teaching and research does that too. It opens up the questions that I reflect on.
Yes.

Background on Why Religion is here.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Philo workshop at WWU Münster

SENT IN BY PROF. DR. LUTZ DOERING:
Philo of Alexandria and Philosophical Discourse
Münster, 12 and 13 May 2019


Organizers:
Prof. Dr. Lutz Doering (WWU Münster)
Dr. Michael Cover (Marquette University / Humboldt Fellow, WWU Münster)

Please register until 3 May 2019 with Frau Maria Arnhold
(arnhold@uni-muenster.de)

Sunday, 12 May 2019
Sunday Conference Venue
Evangelisch - Theologische Fakultät
Universitätsstraße 13-17, Raum ETH 102

13.00–13.15 Welcome and Opening Remarks

Session 1 – Philo Judaeus in Dialogue with Philosophical Schools and Traditions

13.15–14.15 “Philo’s Library and the Libraries of Philosophical Schools”
Gregory Sterling, Yale Divinity School

14.15 –14.45 Coffee Break

14.45–15.45 “The Difficulty of Being Theologically and Philosophically Orthodox: Reincarnation and Afterlife as a Test Case”
Rainer Hirsch-Luipold, Universität Bern

Session 2 – Philo’s Philosophical Treatises: The Case of Quod omnis probus liber sit

15.45–16.45 “Exemplary Ethics in Philo’s Every Good Man is Free”
Maren Niehoff, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

16.45–17.15 Coffee Break

17.15–18.15 “Stoicism, Platonism and Judaism in the Omnis Probus: Philo’s Authorial Stance”
Troels Engberg-Pedersen, University of Copenhagen

Response
18.15–18.45 Response to Sessions 1 & 2
David Runia, IRCI, Australian Catholic University

19.00 Dinner (Location TBD)

Monday, 13 May 2019
Monday Conference Venue
Institutum Judaicum Delitzschianum
Wilmergasse 1

Session 3 – Philo and Sceptical Philosophy

9.00–10.00 “Is Philoʹs Moses a Pyrrhonian Hero?”
Carlos Lévy, Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV)

10.00–10.30 Coffee Break

10.30–11.30 “Scepticism and Contemplation in Philo of Alexandria”
Mauro Bonazzi, University of Utrecht

11.30–12.00 Optional: Tour of IJD Library

12.00–14.00 Lunch (location TBD)

Session 4 – Philo’s Philosophy of Language

14.00–15.00 “Whatʹs in a Name Change? Neo-Pythagorean Arithmology and Middle-Platonic Namewrights in Philo’s Orchard of Philosophy”
Michael Cover, Marquette University / Humboldt Fellow, WWU Münster

15.00 –15.30 Coffee Break

Responses
15.30–16.00 Response to Sessions 3 & 4
David Runia, IRCI, Australian Catholic University

16.00–16.30 Summary Discussion and Publication Plans
Lutz Doering, WWU Münster, moderator

18.00 Dinner (for remaining participants)

The workshop is supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

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Fires last night

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: FIRE BREAKS OUT NEAR MOSQUE ON TEMPLE MOUNT. The Marwani Prayer Hall, also known as Solomon's Stables, is located at the base of the corner of the Temple Mount where the Southern and Eastern walls meet, near the stairs up to the Al Aqsa Mosque (TZVI JOFFRE , Jerusalem Post).

While the cathedral of Notre-Dame was burning yesterday evening, a fire also broke out on the Temple Mount. Fortunately, the latter was quickly extinguished, with no injuries and, apparently, with minimal damage.

The cathedral, as you doubtless already know, was not so fortunate. But, if current information is correct, its art treasures were rescued and the structure is essentially intact and can (and will) be rebuilt. The status of the stained glass windows is unclear. At least one seems to have survived.

All kudos to the brave firefighters, who actually entered the building to save it. Without them, the cathedral would now be gone. I am sorry to hear that one firefighter was injured, but am relieved that the injury was not serious. There are no reports of civilian injuries.

My deepest condolences to the people of France on this tragedy. The cathedral is a world treasure. The world is with you.

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

New archaeology center at Yokneam

EXHIBITION: NEW ARCHAEOLOGICAL VISITOR CENTER OPENS IN YOKNEAM. The ancient settlement of Yokeneam [sic] is mentioned in the Bible as a city of the Levites, located near Megiddo (Cassandra Gomes-Hochberg, Jerusalem Post).
Archaeological findings in the area dates back from the Early Bronze Age, in addition to ceramic evidences and other artifacts from the Iron Age, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Crusader, up to the Ottoman period. Several springs surround the settlement, which have provided water to its residents, enabling the site to be continuously inhabited for almost 4,000 years.

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On Judas Iscariot

CANDIDA MOSS: Why Did Judas Really Betray Jesus? (The Daily Beast).
... The intertwining of antisemitism, the passion narrative, and violence is one of the reasons that it is important we get the historical pieces of the passion narrative correct.

If it wasn’t about the money then, historically speaking, why did Judas do it? In truth, no one knows. But there are a number of historically and narratively responsible explanations.

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Monday, April 15, 2019

Virtual modeling of an ancient chicken's egg

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Case cracked: 2,600-year-old chicken eggshells from Jerusalem put back together. High-tech reconstruction of unique eggshell trove — 1st evidence of chicken eggs on holy land diet — could affect the quantities of matzah some Jews eat on 1st night of Passover (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).

I think everyone else has already exhausted all the egg, chicken, etc. jokes.

Fairly often the Mishnah uses an "egg's bulk" as a measure relevant to some halakhah. For what it's worth, the reconstructed eggshell gives us an ancient egg about the same size as a large egg in today's supermarkets. Now you know.

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Did Shishak create the Northern Kingdom?

FROM ARCHAEOLOGY TO HISTORY? Move Over, Moses: A Pharaoh May Have Created the Ancient Kingdom of Israel. New archaeological evidence and biblical scholarship suggest Shishak wanted to make Egypt great again – but may have inadvertently steered the Israelites into creating a great nation of their own (Ariel David, Haaretz premium). This is a long article. The argument is detailed and nuanced. It is difficult to excerpt, but here's a paragraph:
To summarize [Professor Israel] Finkelstein’s theory, the birth of the Kingdom of Israel may have happened like this: Sheshonq came to Canaan, saw the uppity inhabitants of the highlands as a threat, so he conquered them and installed a vassal ruler over them.
That vassal was Jeroboam I.

Professor Finkelstein has been doing a lot of synthetic work to try to reconstruct the history of Iron Age II Israel. For recent posts on his work, see here and follow the links.

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More dubious "Hebrew" manuscripts seized in Turkey

MORE APPREHENSIONS: Ancient manuscript seized from smugglers (Hurriyet Daily News)
The smugglers were seeking a buyer in Ergani district. The 21-page ancient book written in Hebrew is said to be around 1100 years old with leather cover, golden scripture, and religious patterns.
There are also a couple of photos of the object here.

It's an odd-looking thing. The metal, the wire, and the hinges look machine-tooled to me. Were any objects manufactured with this look 1100 years ago? I defer to experts on medieval book construction.

What I can see of the gold-script Hebrew around the periphery of the cover is gibberish. Some of the words look as though they are based on real Hebrew words, but the vocalizations are nonsense.

Preliminary assessment: another fake.

And there's this: Security forces seize ancient Torah and coins in anti-smuggling operations across Turkey (Daily Sabah).

There is only one, very poor, photo of the bound book, which has a Star of David design on the cover. The pages have the same rough-edged quality as many of the earlier fakes from Turkey. It is reportedly "gilded with gold," also like many of the earlier fakes. There is no legible writing in the photo. I need better information to be sure, but current indications point toward it being another fake.

I don't know about the other objects seized. Some of the coins may be genuine.

The Turkish authorities have been very industrious in rounding up alleged antiquities in 2019. There have been a number of earlier reports of seized Hebrew or Aramaic manuscripts that are supposed to be ancient and often Bible-related artifacts. So far I have seen no indication that any of the manuscripts, including the ones above, are genuine ancient artifacts.

I don't know where the Turkish media are getting the claims that these manuscript are old. When we have enough information to judge, they look like fakes.

I am getting bored with these stories. I imagine you are too. From now on, if more seized manuscripts turn up in Turkey, I'm generally going to ignore the reports.

I will only pass them on to you if (1) there is good indication something is a real antiquity this time; (2) information emerges about an object I noted earlier that leads me to believe it might be a real antiquity after all; or (3) something looks dubious but is interesting for some reason anyway.

I don't necessarily see every such report. So if I don't mention one, it doesn't mean I have a particular view about it. If I have an opinion about something and I want to share it, I'll let you know.

For past reports of apprehensions of manuscripts etc. in Turkey, start here and follow the many links.

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

Review of New Testament Lexicography (del Rosal, Mateos, and du Toit)

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Jesús Peláez del Rosal, Juan Mateos, David S. du Toit (ed.), New Testament Lexicography: Introduction - Theory - Method. Translated, Annotated, and Supplemented by Andrew Bowden. Fontes et Subsidia ad Bibliam pertinentes, Band 6. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2018. Pp. xli, 331. ISBN 9783110408133. €129,95. Reviewed by Peter Montoro, University of Birmingham (pjm838@student.bham.ac.uk).
Nevertheless, while Mateos and Peláez ultimately address only a portion of the puzzle that is the lexicographical study of the Greek of the New Testament, this limitation should by no means be allowed to obscure the significance of their work. While evaluation of the details will surely be ongoing, this important volume will undoubtedly remain an invaluable point of reference for many years to come. Given the technical nature of the subject matter, it is entirely understandable if it proves challenging reading for readers who are more concerned with using dictionaries than producing them. Yet the reward, for those who realize the unique influence that the methodological decisions of lexicographers have on the task of interpretation, will be well worth the difficulty. Those who read it carefully will gain insight, not only into the particular details of Mateos and Peláez’s method, but also into the unique challenges faced by all those courageous enough to attempt the construction of a dictionary. ...

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

A gendering rite in Leviticus?

DR.KRISTINE HENRIKSEN GARROWAY: Gendering a Child with Ritual (TheTorah.com).
A child’s mother remains impure for forty days after the birth of a boy and eighty days after a girl. A comparison of this procedure with similar ones in Hittite birth rituals suggests that this gender-based differentiation may serve as a kind of ritual announcement of the child’s gender.

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Asiedu, Josephus, Paul, and the Fate of Early Christianity

NEW BOOK FROM FORTRESS:
Josephus, Paul, and the Fate of Early Christianity: History and Silence in the First Century
by F. B. A. Asiedu (Author)

Hardcover: 404 pages
Publisher: Fortress Academic (March 1, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1978701322
ISBN-13: 978-1978701328

Flavius Josephus, the priest from Jerusalem who was affiliated with the Pharisees, is our most important source for Jewish life in the first century. His notice about the death of James the brother of Jesus suggests that Josephus knew about the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem and in Judaea. In Rome, where he lived for the remainder of his life after the Jewish War, a group of Christians appear to have flourished, if 1 Clement is any indication. Josephus, however, says extremely little about the Christians in Judaea and nothing about those in Rome. He also does not reference Paul the apostle, a former Pharisee, who was a contemporary of Josephus’s father in Jerusalem, even though, according to Acts, Paul and his activities were known to two successive Roman governors (procurators) of Judaea, Marcus Antonius Felix and Porcius Festus, and to King Herod Agrippa II and his sisters Berenice and Drusilla. The knowledge of the Herodians, in particular, puts Josephus’s silence about Paul in an interesting light, suggesting that it may have been deliberate.

In addition, Josephus’s writings bear very little witness to other contemporaries in Rome, so much so that if we were dependent on Josephus alone we might conclude that many of those historical characters either did not exist or had little or no impact in the first century. Asiedu comments on the state of life in Rome during the reign of the Emperor Domitian and how both Josephus and the Christians who produced 1 Clement coped with the regime as other contemporaries, among whom he considers Martial, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, and others, did. He argues that most of Josephus’s contemporaries practiced different kinds of silences in bearing witness to the world around them. Consequently, the absence of references to Jews or Christians in Roman writers of the last three decades of the first century, including Josephus, should not be taken as proof of their non-existence in Flavian Rome.

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Roman-era surgery and plague

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Doctors, Diseases and Deities: Epidemic Crises and Medicine in Ancient Rome. Watch Sarah Yeomans’s lecture delivered at The Explorers Club in New York. First published in December 2014. I missed it then. Here it is now.

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The interior of the (?) Tomb of Annas

THE HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: The Tomb of the High Priest Annas? Part 2 of 2 — The Interior. Carl Rasmussen continues his Easter season series. Earlier posts, including part one on this tomb, are noted here and links.

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Saturday, April 13, 2019

On Doedens, The Sons of God in Genesis 6:1–4

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Those Elusive Sons of God: Genesis 6:1–4 Revisited

What are we to imagine when Gen 6:1–4 describes heavenly beings as entering into a sexual relationship with human women, from which liaisons giant children are born? Such seems rather to belong to the realm of Greek mythology, but hardly fits within the biblical tradition.

See Also: The Sons of God in Genesis 6:1–4: Analysis and History of Interpretation (Old Testament Studies 76. Leiden: Brill, 2019).

By Jaap Doedens
Pápa Reformed Theological Seminary
Hungary
April 2019
I noted the publication of the book here.

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The story of an Oxford Egyptology student

PHILOLOGY: The Life Of An Oxford Egyptologist (Chloé Agar, The Oxford Student).
It was while skimming through the prospectus for Oxford that I came across Oriental Studies. Oriental Studies covers an extraordinarily wide variety of cultures and languages, with more and more being absorbed into the roster all of the time. When I turned the page, I found Egyptology. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Cross-file under Coptic Watch

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Foreigncy Podcast

THE AWOL BLOG: Podcast: Foreigncy.
A podcast about Arabic and Hebrew language learning, linguistics, and Near Eastern archaeology and history.
I can read much faster than I can listen, so I don't take the time to listen to many podcasts. But some of those in this series do sound well worth listening to.

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Porter & Land (eds.), Paul and Scripture

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Paul and Scripture

Series:
Pauline Studies, Volume: 10

Editors: Stanley E. Porter and Christopher D. Land

In Paul and Scripture, an international group of scholars discuss a range of topics related to the Apostle Paul and his relationship(s) with Jewish Scripture. The essays represent a broad spectrum of viewpoints, with some devoted to methodological issues, others to general patterns in Paul’s uses of Scripture, and still others to specific letters or passages within the traditional Pauline canon (inclusive of the disputed letters). The end result is an overview of the various ways in which Paul the Apostle weaves into his writings the authority, content, and even wording of Jewish Scriptures.

Publication Date: 19 March 2019
ISBN: 978-90-04-39151-2

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Friday, April 12, 2019

Beresheet crashes on the Moon

SETBACK: Israel's Beresheet Spacecraft Crashes Into Moon During Landing Attempt (Mike Wall, Space.com). The Beresheet probe did manage to orbit the Moon and it did land on the Moon, but not successfully.

It was just under 150 meters above the lunar surface when problems began. There was trouble with the main engine. They lost contact with the probe shortly afterward. As far as I can find out, they never regained contact. Presumably the probe crashed and was destroyed.

You can see the recording of the broadcast in the video below. Things start to go wrong around 35 minutes in. In minute 36, there is an announcement that there is a problem with the main engine. They reset the spacecraft and the engine comes on again to applause. But another voice seems to protest that all is not yet well. An announcement comes at 37:19 that contact with the spacecraft has been lost. Then at 39:30 the announcement comes that the probe failed to land.



This was still a great achievement. Space travel is hard. It is impressive that the project got so close to full success on such a small budget. Let's hope that next time (and all indicators are that there will be a next time) they will achieve a soft landing.

Meanwhile, the Space X Prize is still awarding the project $1 million for reaching the surface of the moon.

Background here, with commentary on the name Beresheet, "In the beginning."

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What did Paul know and say about Jesus?

RELIGION PROF: Paul’s Story of Jesus. James McGrath uses Mike Bird's summary of Paul's teachings about Jesus as a launching point for a discussion of the question with a lot of other links.

I think Professor Bird's two summaries are good, but they could include more on the teachings of Jesus (Paul's logia of the Lord). The article by F. F. Bruce is especially good on that topic.

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Kenyon's edition of the biblical(ish) Chester Beatty papyri

VARIANT READINGS: Kenyon’s Editions of the Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri Online (Brent Nongbri). The online edition makes available valuable photos of the biblical and Enochic manuscripts at the Chester Beatty Library. The edition was published in 1933, so the photos are of the manuscripts when they were nearly a century younger than today.

This is part of the Library's larger digitization project. The AWOL Blog has more on this with additional links: Chester Beatty Library Collection Catalogues for Download: Western Collections. And I noted another relevant post at Variant Readings earlier this week.

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The tomb of Annas?

THE HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: The Tomb of the High Priest Annas? Part 1 of 2 — The Exterior.

This tomb in Akeldema is also near the first-century "Tomb of the Shroud" (not the Shroud of Turin!). Akeldema was also in the news last year with reference to a looting arrest.

Earlier posts in Carl Rasmussen's Easter season series are noted here and here

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Karaites and the cable car, continued

KARAITE-AND-CABLE-CAR-CONFLICT WATCH: Jerusalem Is Finally United - in Opposition to This Plan. The Karaite Jewish sect, Palestinians, tour guides and renowned archaeologists and architects have filed complaints about what they see as an offensive, intrusive project linking East and West Jerusalem (Nir Hasson, Haaretz premium).
Aaron Yefet, a member of a Karaite family, died in 2014 and is buried in the community's ancient cemetery in the Hinnom Valley, abutting the Old City walls. His widow and children submitted a formal reservation last week to the cable car plan.

“It is most aggravating to see that the attitude of the authorities to the Karaites and their cemetery has been one of total disregard – not to mention the contempt and serious, shameful and outrageous offense done to the deceased and their families,” stated the complaint, which was submitted by attorney Eitan Peleg on the family’s behalf.

The protest by the Yefets and by others in their community was spurred by the discovery that the project's planners were aware of the cemetery and had even intended to build a roof over it to serve as a barrier so that kohanim – members of the Jewish priestly class, who are not permitted to enter cemeteries due to the fear of ritual impurity – would be able to use the cable car.
To be fair, the Jerusalem Development Authority tells the story somewhat differently. Read the whole article for details.

Background here and links. And for many other posts on the Karaites, start here (cf. here) and follow the links.

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The site of the house of Caiaphas?

THE HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: Place of Peter’s Denial of Jesus? (Carl Rasmussen). There is a Byzantine-era tradition that the church is at or near the site of the house of Caiaphas the High Priest. And there does seem to have been Second-Temple-era architecture there.

The first post in this series was noted here.

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The Bible's calendar(s)?

PROFESSOR SACHA STERN: What Is the Bible’s Calendar? (TheTorah.com).
The Torah prescribes the observance of festivals on very specific dates, but does not explain how the calendar must be reckoned: Is it lunar? Is it solar? Does it follow some other scheme? And why is the Torah silent on this?
There's no particular reason that either the Bible or the Torah have to have a single answer to this question. There were competing Jewish calendars in the Second Temple Period (as the essay discusses).

Some past posts on ancient Jewish calendars are here and follow the links. And I have collected posts on the somewhat related question of the chronology of the Gospel Passion narratives here.

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On David

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Who Is David?

The classic, heroic figure of King David is the most dominant of many different figures we have of David. The story of the shepherd boy David’s rise from his rejection and flight in to the wilderness to become king of all Israel reflects a long tradition of ancient Near Eastern royal inscriptions from the Bronze Age to the Persian period.

By Thomas L. Thompson
Professor Emeritus
University of Copenhagen
April 4, 2019

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Nongbri on the Chester Beatty Bodmer Papyri

VARIANT READINGS: “Bodmer Papyri” at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin (Brent Nongbri). These include Greek and Coptic fragments of New Testament and Old Testament (Septuagint) manuscripts.

Past posts on the Chester Beatty Library, which I visited in 2017 during the British New Testament Conference in Maynooth, are here and links. I also noted the Library's manuscript digitization project in 2017 here. If you go to their website you can see lots of images of fascinating biblical, Bible-related, and other manuscripts in many languages. For example, here are the Library's fragments of an important Greek manuscript of 1 Enoch.

Other posts on the Bodmer Papyri are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here,


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Review of Brisson et al. (eds.), Neoplatonic Demons and Angels

BRYN MAY CLASSICAL REVIEW: Luc Brisson, Séamus O'Neill, Andrei Timotin (ed.), Neoplatonic Demons and Angels. Studies in Platonism, Neoplatonism, and the Platonic tradition, volume 20. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2018. Pp. ix, 294. ISBN 9789004374973. €138,00. Reviewed by Cesar Sinatti (cesare.sinatti@durham.ac.uk).
In conclusion, Neoplatonic Demons and Angels will be a useful resource for scholars working on ancient demonology and angelology, offering detailed information and insightful thoughts on specific authors and issues, together with awareness of the most recent scholarly debate. The book could have engaged more with the philosophical potential of the notion of a mediating entity, but it nonetheless marks a significant advance in reconstructing the discussions around demons and angels, and will provide useful insights for future scholars to work on.

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Review of "Jesus: His Life," episodes 5-6

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
“Jesus: His Life from the Perspectives of Judas and Pilate” (Pt. 3)

See Also: “Jesus: His Life—Perspectives of Joseph and John the Baptist” (Pt. 1)
"Jesus: His Life from the Perspectives of Mary and Caiaphas" (Pt. 2)

By Paul N. Anderson
George Fox University
Newberg, Oregon
April 2019
I have also noted Professor Anderson's reviews of the earlier episodes here and here. I myself have not seen any of the series.

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Speaking of Victoria Hanna ...

YALE DAILY NEWS: Israeli singer Victoria Hanna visits Slifka Center (Helena Lyng-Olsen).
Hanna is from Jerusalem and has lived there all her life. She composes original songs that she publishes through YouTube, which have garnered millions of views. She sings in Hebrew, and in 2015, Forbes listed her as one of Israel’s 50 most influential women. Hanna also sang at the 2017 Maccabiah Games, the third largest sporting competition in the world.

Hanna’s talk focused on the correspondence between saying letters of the Hebrew alphabet and moving one’s body in a space.
For more on Ms. Hannah's music, which is influenced by Jewish esoteric writings such as Sefer Yetsirah, see yesterday's post and links.

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Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Sefer Yetsirah: "Quarried in Air" and set to music

BOOK REVIEW: Quarried in Air (Shai Secunda, Jewish Review of Books). The book is:
Sefer Yeṣirah and Its Contexts: Other Jewish Voices
by Tzahi Weiss

University of Pennsylvania Press
208 pp., $59.95
Excerpts:
In the introduction to his Sefer Yeṣirah and Its Contexts: Other Jewish Voices, Tzahi Weiss quips that after a century and a half of research, we know almost everything there is to know about Sefer Yeṣirah except the identity of its author, the time and place of its writing, the shape of the original text, and, also, its meaning.
Yes, that about sums it up.
Weiss contends that Sefer Yeṣirah applies the Syriac Christian alphabetology to the singular language of Hebrew. He argues that the text emerged from a barely known northern Mesopotamian Jewish community at some remove from rabbinic Babylonia, located to the south. If this is right, then Weiss has done more than locate the true origins of Sefer Yeṣirah, he has recovered the “Other Jewish Voices” of his monograph’s subtitle, voices that had been drowned out by the rolling waters and gasping wind of the talmudic sea.
Intriguing. Past posts on Sefer Yetsirah) are here and here and links. Variant English spellings include Sepher Yetsirah, Sefer Yetzira, and Sefer Yesira.

The second part of the article reviews the self-titled 2017 album by Israeli musician Victoria Hanna. It was heavily influenced by Sefer Yetsirah. Notably the song "22 Letters." You should listen to it. Also to "The Aleph-bet Song (Hosha'ana)." For more on her work, see here.

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The mocking of Carabas and Jesus

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: The Mocking of Carabas. Philip Jenkins notes a story related by Philo of Alexandria which has striking parallels to the accounts of the pre-crucifixion mocking of Jesus in the Gospels. I don't remember encountering it before. Professor Jenkins also has some informed speculation about what to make of the parallels. I can't do any better.

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Palm Sunday etc. photo series

HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: Palm Sunday and “Holy Week.” In this post, Carl Rasmussen begins a series with photo links for Palm Sunday (which is this Sunday, 14 April) and the following week.

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Ben-Sasson, YHWH

NEW BOOK IN HEBREW FROM MAGNES PRESS:
YHWH

Its Meanings in Biblical, Rabbinic and Medieval Jewish thought


By Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson

Publisher: Magnes
Categories:
Jewish Studies, Jewish Thought, Religion
Publish date: February 2019
Language: Hebrew
Danacode: 45-171080
ISBN: 978-965-7763-77-3
Cover: Paperback
Pages: 296
Format: 15x22.5 cm
Weight: 600 gr.

This study is the first monograph on the meanings given to the divine name YHWH in the Jewish tradition. It seeks to trace the interplay between the motivation to speak about God and the wish to speak to Him through the meanings given to the name YHWH, in three central stages of Jewish thought: the Hebrew Bible, rabbinic literature, and medieval philosophy and mysticism. From a textual perspective, the current study offers a close reading in a variety of Jewish texts and genres, including the Old Testament, Mishna, Midrash, Philo’s writings, Jewish medieval philosophy, biblical exegesis and various mystical texts. There is hardly an exegetical or contemplative Jewish text that does not in some way deal with the name YHWH. Accordingly, almost every scholarly field related to Judaism discusses it in some capacity. However, despite the immensity of the literature, YHWH and its status as a proper name have not been the focus of a comprehensive scholarly work. None have yet attempted to paint a picture of YHWH’s meaning over a spectrum of periods and genres, while offering conceptual and textual discussion. This study seeks to fill that gap

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Monday, April 08, 2019

The Temple Mount Sifting Project is resuming

GOOD NEWS: TEMPLE MOUNT SIFTING PROJECT TO RELAUNCH FOR JERUSALEM DAY. A third of the removed Temple Mount soil remained unsifted and is in danger of being lost by erosion (Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman, Jerusalem Post). That's on 2 June.

The Temple Mount Sifiting Project Blog also has a post with additional details: Two Important Announcements. But the bad news is that the prospective funding by the Israeli Government has not (yet) appeared.

For many past posts on the Temple Mount Sifting Project, start here (cf. here and links and here) and follow the links.

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Frankfurter, Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic

Series:
Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, Volume: 189

Editor: David Frankfurter

In the midst of academic debates about the utility of the term “magic” and the cultural meaning of ancient words like mageia or khesheph, this Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic seeks to advance the discussion by separating out three topics essential to the very idea of magic. The three major sections of this volume address (1) indigenous terminologies for ambiguous or illicit ritual in antiquity; (2) the ancient texts, manuals, and artifacts commonly designated “magical” or used to represent ancient magic; and (3) a series of contexts, from the written word to materiality itself, to which the term “magic” might usefully pertain.

The individual essays in this volume cover most of Mediterranean and Near Eastern antiquity, with essays by both established and emergent scholars of ancient religions.

In a burgeoning field of “magic studies” trying both to preserve and to justify critically the category itself, this volume brings new clarity and provocative insights. This will be an indispensable resource to all interested in magic in the Bible and the Ancient Near East, ancient Greece and Rome, Early Christianity and Judaism, Egypt through the Christian period, and also comparative and critical theory.

Publication Date: 19 March 2019
ISBN: 978-90-04-39075-1

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Report of looting of Hasmonean burial caves near Jericho

BUT NO APPREHENSIONS: HASMONEAN-ERA BURIAL CAVES NEAR JERICHO ALLEGEDLY LOOTED BY LOCAL ARABS. The caves form part of an extensive burial ground of what's believed to be a Hasmonean palace, which was discovered in the area recently after agricultural and landscaping work was being done (Ilanit Chernick, Jerusalem Post).

I see no indication that the looting, let alone who may be responsible for it, has been independently verified by archaeologists or the IAA. But let's keep an eye on the story.

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Noncanonica in music and animation

RELIGION PROF: ReligionProf Podcast with Deb Saxon (Extracanonical Texts in Musical and Animated Settings).

Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch and Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Sunday, April 07, 2019

7 looted biblical(ish) sites

PHOTO ESSAY: 7 Biblical Sites Ravaged by Modern-Day Looters (Owen Jarus, Live Science). Good coverage of a sad topic.

You can find more about these sites in the PaleoJudaica archives.

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JSIJ 15 (2019)

JSIJ - JUDAIC STUDIES, AN INTERNET JOURNAL has published a new volume. It is a peer-reviewed, open-access, online journal. The TOC of volume 15 is as follows:
1. Robert Brody, “Shamma Friedman’s Treatment of the Story of Rav Kahana”
2. Joseph David, “Belonging and Halakhic Change in Medieval Karaite Law and Adjacent Legal Traditions” (Heb.)
3. Yonatan Feintuch, “Esther and Alexander: A Babylonian Reworking of a Palestinian Aggada” (Heb.)
4. Eli Gurfinkel, “Jacob Bachrach’s Notes and Glosses to the Guide of the Perplexed and the Commentaries of Narboni and Satanow” (Heb.)
5. Lea Himmelfarb, “Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s Use of Biblical Accentuation in His Commentary on Psalms”
6. Binyamin Katzoff, “Tosefta Bookbindings from Norcia and their Place in the Textual Tradition of the Tosefta” (Heb.)
7. Nachman Levine, “Rav, Roman Imagery, and Korah’s (True) Colors”
8. Shlomo H. Pick, “The Chazzan in Provencia” (Heb.)
9. Shalom Sadiq, “Human Agency in the Thought of Rabbi Aaron from Nicomedia the Karaite” (Heb.)
10. Avraham Ofir Shemesh, “‘And in the Land of Ishmael They Do Like This And There is No Finer Bread than It’: The Influence of Islamic Cuisine and Diet on Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Biblical Commentaries” (Heb.)
11. Yael Shemesh, “The Sacrifice of Jephthah’s Daughter (Judges 11) as a Reflection Story of Rebecca’s Betrothal and Marriage (Genesis 24)”
12. Amram Tropper, “Revisiting ראשי פספסין” (Heb.)
13. Meirav (Tubul) Kahana, “Numerical Sayings in the Mishnah and Tosefta” (Heb.)
14. Shalem Yahalom, “On the Attributions in the Tosafot of R. Eliezer of Tuch” (Heb.)
15. Chanan Yitzchaki, “Which Editions of the Shulhan Arukh Were Used by the Author of the Pithei Teshuvah?” (Heb.)

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Rubanovich & Herman (eds.), Irano-Judaica VII

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Irano-Judaica VII. Notice of a New Book: Rubanovich, Julia & Geoffrey Herman (eds.). 2019. Irano-Judaica VII: Studies Relating to Jewish Contacts with Persian Culture throughout the Ages. Vol. VII. Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute for the Study of Jewish Communities in the East.

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Updates on the Forging Antiquity Project

THE MARKERS OF AUTHENTICITY BLOG has two recent posts with updates on the Forging Antiquity Project at Macquarie University and the University of Heidelberg, supported by the Australian Research Council. (I first noted the project here and have linked to the blog occasionally.)

In one post, Student Internships on the ‘Forging Antiquity’ Project, Malcolm Choat reports that four research internships associated with the project are being awarded at Macquarie University, and a fifth associated with the "“Ancient Egyptian papyri" ARC project.

The second is a report by 2018 student intern Mark Matic on his work: My Internship on the Forging Antiquity Project for 2018.
By the end of the internship, research assistant Vanessa Mawby and I had collected data for 180 forgeries. Among these were compositions and copied texts written on a variety of materials in Greek, Demotic, Hieratic and Coptic.
The project included work on a fake biblical manuscript made by the notorious nineteenth-century forger Constantine Simonides. More on him here and links.

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Saturday, April 06, 2019

RNS on Alter's Bible translation

REVIEW: In Robert Alter’s majestic Bible translation, the achievement is in the details (A. James Rudin, RNS).

There is a good thought experiment on what translating today's English would be like for someone in 2319.

Note also the section on the meaning of Genesis 1:1, which I was discussing recently in the context of the Israeli moon probe.

This review is of Alter's recently completed translation of the whole Hebrew Bible. The author of the review does not menton his new book with Princeton University Press, The Art of Bible Translation. More on it here. And follow the links from there for more on the Bible translation itself.

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The Seleucid Coins, Part 4

NUMISMATICS: CoinWeek Ancient Coin Series – The Seleucids and Their Coins: Part IV (Mike Markowitz).

My knowledge of the Seleucid dynasty starts to fizzle out in this period. I assume I am not noticing everything interesting for ancient Judaism in this article. It scarcely helps that so many of them were named Antiochus, and even Antiochus Epiphanes. But that's just me. It's a good article with lots of coin images of the various rulers and you should have a look.

Alexander I Balas appears in 1 Maccabees 10 as "Alexander Epiphanes." And the article notes that Josephus mentioned Demetrius III.

That concludes this series of articles. For comments on parts 1-3, see here and links.

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Conference on the Urtext (?) of the HB

THE OTTC BLOG: Urtext, Archetype, Fluidity or Textual Convergence The Quest for the Texts of the Hebrew Bible International Conference (Drew Longacre). It takes place in Metz in November of 2019. Follow the link for more information.

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When amulets come inactivated

THE COPTIC MAGICAL PAPYRI BLOG: Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri III: Boundary-Crossing Texts.

Sometimes magical texts formatted for practical application come in generic form, as though copied from a handbook, without putting in the name of the client.

I noted the first two posts of this series here.

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Friday, April 05, 2019

Robert Alter's new book on Bible translation

ROBERT ALTER has spent the last couple of decades publishing a remarkable, respected, and popular translation of the Hebrew Bible. Not content with that achievement, he has just published another book on the art of translating the Bible. I noted this earlier in passing, but it deserves more attention. Jonathan Kirsch introduces the new book in two articles in the Jewish Journal:

A Masterful Primer on Bible Translation.
Now Alter has crowned his life’s work with “The Art of Bible Translation” (Princeton University Press), which serves as an essential companion volume to his own translations. And it can be seen as the completion of a trilogy that started with “The Art of Biblical Narrative” (1981) and continued with “The Art of Biblical Poetry” (1985), which contributed importantly to the teaching of “the Bible as literature” as distinguished from its use in religious belief and practice.
Author and Scholar Talks About the Importance of Words and Meaning. An interview with Professor Alter and a brief excerpt from the new book.

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

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More on the Roman-era town near Beer Sheva

ARCHAEOLOGY: Ancient Jewish Town Found in Be'er Sheva Solves Decades-old Mystery. Where were the Jews of the city during the Second Temple period, and why did they disappear after 150 years? (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz premium).

The answer to the first question is that at least some of them lived in this town.

The answer to the second is less straightforward. They just left. I suspect the area wasn't very prosperous after the disastrous Bar Kokhba Revolt.

Anyhow, read the article for a detailed discussion of both questions.

Background here.

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The voices of Lamentations

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Trauma and the Failure of Narrative in Lamentations

The Book of Lamentations reflects the sorts of struggles that trauma survivors encounter when provided with narratives that attempt to explain the suffering that resulted in their trauma. We encounter some voices in Lamentations trying to create explanatory narratives for the destruction of Jerusalem that resulted in the survivors’ suffering, only to find the voices of the survivors reject or contradict those narrative explanations.

See Also: Trauma and the Failure of History (SBL Press, 2019).

By David Janzen
Department of Theology and Religion
Durham University
Durham, United Kingdom
March 2019
Cross-file under New Book.

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Renewed Philology

ANNOUNCEMENT BY YALE UNIVERSITY: Renewed Philology. Biblical Studies for the 21st Century.
Renewed Philology is an international working group of scholars in biblical studies whose work reflects critically on the intellectual frameworks brought to bear in philological practice. The work of this group is diverse in its interests, interdisciplinary in its readings of ancient texts and the recovery of ancient world-views, and meta-critical in its practices. We are comprised of a core group of researchers and are supported by a broader advisory board.
Follow the link for details, participants, recommended reading, and upcoming events.

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Thursday, April 04, 2019

Jerusalem cable-car comment period concludes

KARAITE-AND-CABLE-CAR-CONFLICT WATCH: With objection period ending, opposition to Jerusalem cable car plan peaks. Daniel Libeskind: City’s ‘traffic problems should not be solved by cable cars which will mar the image of Jerusalem with a technology reminiscent of a Swiss mountainside’ (Sue Surkes, Times of Israel).
The project — strongly backed by Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion — has already been approved, subject to a period of public comment, which ends on April 3.
That was yesterday.

Opposers of the project include archaeologists, architects, and the local Karaite community. This article covers the details of the controversy thoroughly.

Background here and here.

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The Talmud on ritual purity and meat

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Impure Thoughts. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the practical-minded, hyperspecific, sometimes contradictory rules of Jewish ritual purity. Plus: Why religious uncleanliness is like a virus. For the specific topic of purity and meat, read the essay.

Some past posts on the subject of ritual purity and impurity in the biblical and rabbinic world are here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Menorah decoration found in Roman-era town near Beer Sheva

ARCHAEOLOGY: 2000 Year Old Jewish Settlement Unearthed in Beer Sheva (David Israel, The Jewish Press).
The excavation discovered for the first time evidence of Jewish daily life in the ancient city, including part of an oil lamp decorated with a nine-branch menorah, limestone vessels used by Jews for ritual purity, and a watchtower. The site, dated from the early first century CE to the Bar-Kochva rebellion of 135, contains hidden underground passageways that were used by the Jewish rebels.
The menorah decoration is one of the earliest surviving depictions of a menorah. The Jerusalem Post says it's the earliest, but that isn't clear. The one on the Magdala Stone (see here for a photo) is of a comparable date and could be earlier. Note that the one on the Magdala Stone has seven branches, which implies that it is a depiction of the menorah in the Temple.

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The Pope is meeting with scholars defending the Pharisees

WELL GOOD: Pope who chides Pharisees to meet experts wanting them rehabilitated (John L. Allen Jr., Crux).
ROME - Founded by Pius X in 1909 as a center of scripture scholarship in Rome, the Pontifical Biblical Institute has been at the service of popes for 110 years and will be at it again in May with a conference aimed at debunking prejudices surrounding the Pharisees, the ancient precursor of the rabbis who feature in the New Testament.

Ironically, one figure who might find the program especially interesting is the current pope, since the Pharisees are a frequent rhetorical trope for Francis and rarely in a positive vein.

The May 7-9 event, titled “Jesus and the Pharisees: An Interdisciplinary Reappraisal,” was presented at a news conference on Wednesday at the Jesuit-sponsored Pontifical Biblical Institute, located adjacent to the Gregorian. The scholarly meeting will culminate on May 9 with a private audience for participants with Francis.

[...]
I'm glad the Pope is meeting with them. For some past posts defending the Pharisees from negative stereotyping, see here and links.

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Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Sex in the Bible and the Talmud

A THOROUGH REVIEW OF THE TOPIC: Sex and the Jews: How the Rabbis Made It Up as They Went Along. How often should a camel-driver have sex? What about a sailor? The bible is rife with confusing references and the rabbis set out to regulate intercourse, not that they agreed on the details (Elon Gilad, Haaretz premium).
The Babylonian Talmud recounts a story about the third-century sage Rav Kahana sneaking under his master’s bed in order to observe him having sex with his wife. He was discovered, roundly rebuked and ordered to leave at once, but Rav Kahana defended his actions, saying that it – sex – “is Torah, and I must learn” (Berachot 62a).

Sex, like all other aspects of Jewish life, is regulated by Jewish Law. But the laws governing sex in the Bible are not the same as the laws elaborated by the rabbis in the Talmud, the main source of Jewish Law, and those are no identical with the Medieval codices of Jewish law.

[...]

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Review of "Jesus: His Life," episodes 3-4

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Jesus: His Life from the Perspectives of Mary and Caiaphas (Pt. 2)

See Also: “Jesus: His Life—Perspectives of Joseph and John the Baptist” (Pt. 1)

By Paul N. Anderson
George Fox University
Newberg, Oregon
April 2, 2019
I also noted Professor Anderson's review of episodes 1 and 2 here.

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How was Rome like a boar?

DR. MALKA Z. SIMKOVICH: Why Rome Is Likened to a Boar (TheTorah.com).
The Romans were baffled as to why Jews would not eat pork, an idiosyncrasy which became the subject of speculation as well as ethnic humor. In response, Jewish texts highlight the way the hated Romans remind the rabbis of pigs and wild boars.

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Ritual purity in Iron Age Israel

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Purity and Impurity in Iron Age Israel. The archaeology of a purification ritual (Marek Dospěl).
Writing for the March/April 2019 issue of BAR, archaeologist Avraham Faust [Director of the Tel ‘Eton archaeological expedition] explores what we know about how the ancient Israelites dealt with issues of religious purity and impurity during the Iron Age—long before ablution in a mikveh became the norm. In his article “Purity and Impurity in Iron Age Israel,” Faust explains that restrictions of movement of the impure necessarily have “a spatial dimension, and rules governing impurity had to be formulated in relation to space.”
As usual, the BAR article itself is behind a subscription wall. But this BHD essay gives you a taste of it.

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Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Rollston on the Nathan-Melekh bulla

THE ROLLSTON EPIGRAPHY BLOG: The Bible, a New Hebrew Inscription from Jerusalem, and a High Official of Judah. We can rely on Professor Christopher Rollston to provide the definitive epigraphic analysis of new Northwest Semitic inscriptions. This post is no exception. Go there for just about everything we can currently know about the Nathan-Melekh (Nathan-Melech/Natan-Melek) bulla.

Background here and here.

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Where did YHWH worship start?

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: Where Does Yhwh Come From? (Martin Leuenberger). From the south or the north?

For more thoughts on the possible origins of the worship of YHWH, see here and here. Both opt for a southern origin, as does Professor Leuenberger.

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Review of Keim, Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer: Structure, Coherence, Intertextuality (Yoni Nadiv).
Katharina E. Keim. Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer: Structure, Coherence, Intertextuality. Leiden: Brill, 2017.
Excerpt:
Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer (PRE) is a “thematic discourse” that is organized as a shadow to the Bible (from creation to Sinai) and is made up of an anthology of literary forms pieced together in a “lego-like” (p. 75) structure. These are the major conclusions of Katharina Keim’s study, a 204 page work, with excellent appendices, based on her Manchester dissertation of 2014. ...
I have noted the book here and here.

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Biblical Studies Carnival 157

THE SPOILEDMILKS BLOG: Biblical Studies Carnival (March 2019) (Spencer Robinson). This is the 1 April edition of the Carnival, so frame the contents accordingly.

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Monday, April 01, 2019

Is Jordan "weaponizing" archaeology against Israel?

ARCHAEOLOGICAL POLITICS: Opinion // How Jordan Is Weaponizing Archaeology Against Israel. Despite formal peace, you won't find maps naming Israel in Jordan. Visit the kingdom's archaeological sites, and the message is clear: 2000 years ago, Jews were already 'oppressors' in the Middle East (Adam Sacks, Haaretz premium).
As [the Hasmonean era is] the sole context in which Jews are mentioned in the Hashemite Kingdom, one cannot escape the impression that the Jordanians are really talking about the contemporary State of Israel, and that they are using a not so highly encrypted form of code language.

What is notable here is not the critical language itself, which appears frequently in left-wing media around the world, but rather the use of archeological and historical sources to draw evocative historical parallels. Leaving aside questions of historical veracity, the overall message given is that the late 20th century is not the first time Jews were seen as oppressors in the Middle East.

Here are some examples that illuminate that position.

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An intriguing detail about the Nathan-Melekh bulla

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Seal Impression of Nathan-Melech Discovered in Jerusalem. Yesterday I noted the story of the two Hebrew inscriptions, a stone seal and an clay bullae, uncovered at the City of David’s Givati Parking Lot. The bulla mentions a royal administrator named Nathan-Melekh, who quite possibly appears in the Bible in 2 Kings 23:11.

Now Todd Bolen has highlighted something about the bulla that, as far as I can tell, no media article has noticed. Follow the link to read about it. No fooling.

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Review of "Jesus: His Life"

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
“Jesus: His Life—Perspectives of Joseph and John the Baptist”

By Paul N. Anderson
George Fox University
Newberg, Oregon
March 2019
Excerpt:
In addition to other historical treatments of Jesus and his life, the value of this project is that it seeks to further a set of dialogues between different disciplines and approaches to biblical texts in historical perspective, showing both sides of debated issues while allowing viewers to come to their own conclusions. Thus, the Gospel of John is given a place alongside the Synoptic Gospels, and in the first two episodes diverse perspectives are integrated in a thoughtful and nuanced way. If the remaining episodes are as good as the first two, this new series will have made a contribution, not only for this year but also for years to come.
I noted another review, also of the first two episodes, here.

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The latest on Coptic magic

THE COPTIC MAGICAL PAPYRI BLOG has begun a new series. Two posts are up so far:

Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri I: Defining Magical Texts

Are the texts magical, amuletic, medical, or literary?

Looking at the Coptic Magical Papyri II: Formularies and Applied Texts
The distinction is fairly simple: formularies – also called handbooks or grimoires – contain one or more recipes for performing rituals. By contrast, applied or activated texts are objects – such as amulets or curse tablets – created in the course of these magical rituals.
Cross-file under — of course — Coptic Watch.

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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Two Hebrew seals excavated in Jerusalem

EPIGRAPHY: Two tiny First Temple inscriptions vastly enlarge picture of ancient Jerusalem. Rare Paleo-Hebrew seal and seal impression found in large administrative center in the Iron Age capital’s western sprawl ahead of the Babylonian capture (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).

Two First-Temple-era inscriptions have been found by the City of David’s Givati Parking Lot excavation.
One is a bluish agate stone seal “(belonging) to Ikkar son of Matanyahu” (LeIkkar Ben Matanyahu). The other is a clay seal impression, “(belonging) to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King” (LeNathan-Melech Eved HaMelech).
An official in the reign of King Josaiah was named Nathan-Melekh (2 Kings 23:11). The person named on the seal impression (bulla) could well be the same person.

Read the article for lots more information. The same excavation found two other Hebrew seals a couple of years ago. Follow the links there for earlier discoveries at that site.

Also, the New York Times has an article by Bari Weiss on the bulla: The Story Behind a 2,600-Year-Old Seal. Who was Natan-Melech, the king’s servant?

Is it true that most NYT readers have never heard of King Josiah? Really? Anyway, the basic story is covered accurately.

UPDATE: More about the Nathan-Melekh bulla here.

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Lidzbarski's publications online

THE AWOL BLOG: Digitized publications of Mark Lidzbarski at Menadoc. Lidzbarski did foundational work on Northwest Semitic epigraphy and on the Mandeans (Mandaeans). His work is more than a century old. Of course it is dated. But much is still useful.

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BJS monographs for free!

MICHAEL SATLOW: Open Books! Professor Satlow shares the good news that he has a grant to digitize about fifty titles from the Brown Judaic Studies Monograph Series and make them available online for free. See the link for details and the press release. For you, special deal!

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

On Pontius Pilate

THE WORLD IS FULL OF HISTORY: Who Was Pontius Pilate? (Owen Jarus, Live Science).
Despite his biblical fame, little is known about Pilate. Only a small number of historical accounts and artifacts that date close to his lifetime survive today.
Some past PaleoJudaica posts on Pontius Pilate are here and here and links.

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

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Austin, Plant Metaphors in the Old Greek of Isaiah

NEW BOOK FROM THE SOCIETY OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE PRESS:
Plant Metaphors in the Old Greek of Isaiah

Benjamin M. Austin

ISBN 9781628372090
Status Available
Price: $53.95
Binding Paperback
Publication Date February 2019
Pages 422

A thorough analysis of metaphor translation techniques used in Isaiah

In this study Benjamin M. Austin analyzes all the plant metaphors in Isaiah and classifies them according to the metaphor translation techniques used by the Septuagint translator. Austin illustrates how the translator took the context of each metaphor into account and demonstrates how the natural features of the plants under discussion at times influence their translation. He argues that the translator tried to render metaphors vividly and with clarity, sometimes adjusting them to match the experience of his audience living in Egypt. Austin examines metaphors by their vehicles, so that the translation of similar metaphors can be compared.

Features

• A comparison of the Masoretic Text to the Septuagint and Targum
• A classification of metaphor translation strategies
• An introduction to the Hellenistic and the Jewish conception of metaphors
Follow the link for a downloadable file with the TOC and Introduction of the book.

The psychology of metaphors is a promising area for new research in biblical studies.

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

Temple Mount photos

EXHIBITION: TEMPLE MOUNT EXHIBIT TRACKS 'NAVEL OF THE WORLD' FROM PAST TO PRESENT. “The Mount: A Photographic Journey” uses images dating from the time of the first camera (1838) until today the story of Jerusalem’s holiest site: The Temple Mount, also known as Al Haram aSharif. (Peggy Cidor, Jerusalem Post). Cross-file under Temple Mount Watch.

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How old is the Greek alphabet?

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: The Greek Alphabet: Older Than You May Think? (Willemijn Waal). Maybe.

Cross-file under Paleolography.

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On Judith

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: Meet the Biblical heroine who beheaded a Babylonian to save her people. Using her brains and looks, the widow Judith infiltrated Nebuchadrezzars's army and slayed its commander, Holofernes (JEAN-PIERRE ISBOUTS).

Good summary of the story, but "slayed?" Really? It's come to this?

Another recent post on Judith is here. For many other posts, see the archives. Cross-file under Old Testament Apocrypha Watch.

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

Friday, March 29, 2019

More on the Sharafat excavation

ARCHAEOLOGY: Archaeologists Find Tomb of the Richest of the Rich in Second Temple-era Jerusalem. The Jewish villagers seem to have done very well for themselves from exporting olive oil and wine 2,000 years ago, though what they did with their pigeons is anyone's guess (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
The excavation of the site is still in its early stages, but the archaeologists have found categorical signs that the village was populated by Jews. They have found two ritual baths, one of which is enormous and the other typical of the time, and part of a stone vessel characteristic of early Jewish adherence to kashrut, Jewish dietary laws. The stone remnant looks rather like the lid of a sugar bowl, says Yaakov Billig, of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who is the director of the excavation.

According to Jewish dietary guidelines, if pottery is contaminated by non-kosher food, it cannot be cleaned and must be thrown away. Stone vessels, on the other hand, by definition, cannot be contaminated. “You could store anything in stone vessels: wine, oil, cornflakes, wheat, whatever,” Billig says. Such stone vessels have been found in huge numbers in ancient Jewish settlements, and are especially common in the vicinity of Temple Mount, he adds.

The archaeologists also found a burial complex at Sharafat that is carved out of the bedrock and which is also typical of ancient Jewish interment practice. It’s a relatively impressive structure that is also of impressive dimensions. The scientists can’t explore the tomb or others in the ancient village because of potential conflict with the ultra-Orthodox community, which opposes any possible desecration of Jewish dead.
I noted this story in a Jerusalem Post article yesterday, but this article has much more detail. There is also an article by Amanda Borschel-Dan in the Times of Israel: Large Hasmonean-era agricultural village found under Jerusalem Arab neighborhood. Impressive, multi-generation burial chamber and large dovecote point to well-heeled settlement in rural area, near today’s Biblical Zoo.

For more on ritual baths, stone vessels, and ritual purity, see here.

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Beresheet is going to the moon

COSMOLOGY: Israeli lander pioneers private flights to the moon (Daniel Clery, Science Magazine).
For Israel, the planned 11 April touchdown of the Beresheet moon lander will be a moment of national pride, as it becomes the fourth country to put a spacecraft on the moon, after Russia, the United States, and China. But for many, the feat will mark a different milestone: If successful, Beresheet would be the first privately built spacecraft to reach the lunar surface, at a fraction of the cost of a government mission. By pioneering a cutrate route to the moon, the landing could ensure that "the world's lunar scientists are going to be busy for many years to come," says John Thornton, CEO of rival space company Astrobotic in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which plans to launch its first lunar mission in early 2021.

[...]
As a space-travel enthusiast, I have enjoyed following this story. But it deserves at least a mention on PaleoJudaica because of the spacecraft's name.

"Beresheet" is the first word of the Hebrew Bible and, accordingly, the first word of the creation account in Genesis chapter one. It means "in the beginning." Traditionally the opening of Genesis 1:1 has been translated "In the beginning God created ..." But the grammar of the verse points toward a somewhat different translation, "When God began to create ..." This matters theologically because the first translation implies divine creation out of nothing. The second implies that that God shaped the earth out of "formless and void" pre-existing primordial matter. The second interpretation fits better in the context of ancient Near Eastern creation theology.

Be that as it may, it is a cool name for a spacecraft headed for the moon. I wish the Beresheet project all success.

For a more detailed discussion of the opening of Genesis 1:1, see here.

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1st mention of Gibeon in an inscription (Temple Mount Object #3)

THE TEMPLE MOUNT SIFTING PROJECT BLOG: The History of the Temple Mount in 12 Objects: #3 The Late First Temple Period.
This item, approx. 7x7mm in size is a sealing – a piece of clay, which, while still wet and soft, was affixed to a string used to tie up a rolled papyrus document. Looking at the righthand picture, you may be able to make out the impression left by the string and the strands of papyrus on the reverse side of the sealing.

On the left side, you can see the ancient Hebrew letters stamped into the sealing, which, despite two broken letters, can be read as saying Gibeon \ [belonging to the] king. The shape of the letters and comparison to similar artifacts date our sealing to the 7th century BCE.

This sealing belongs to a rare group known as “fiscal bullae”. ...
Emphasis in the original.

Go to the link for some interesting details and also an overview of the Temple Mount in the late First Temple period.

Earlier posts in the series are here and here.

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

More manuscripts etc. seized in Turkey

APPREHENDED: Hundreds of artifacts including stone-carved Bible, statue resembling Kilia Idol seized in Istanbul (Daily Sabah).
Istanbul police seized a total of 836 historical artifacts, including a statue resembling the Kilia Idol, a statue sold for $14.5 million in a recent New York auction, and an 18th-century ancient Greek Bible carved in stone in anti-smuggling operations across the city.

Seven people were detained in connection with the smuggling of the artifacts, which also included Bronze Age war axes, and bronze brooches dating back to the Phrygian and Urartu eras, along with rare manuscripts containing prayer texts in Armenian and Hebrew.

[...]
The poor-quality photo at the top shows a bound book, three unrolled scrolls, and two rolled-up scrolls. I can't make out the writing on the unrolled scrolls, although I'm pretty sure that none of it is Hebrew. Nothing in the photo looks very old to me. It's hard to say more without better photos of more of the artifacts.

I have no opinion about the stone object pictured later in the article.

The artifacts seized in Turkey in recent years generally seem to be modern fakes or relatively recent manuscripts. I have yet to see any manuscript come up that looks genuinely ancient. That's not to say that one couldn't turn up or that some of the other artifacts rounded up this time couldn't be ancient.

The article briefly mentions Roman coins. As I've said before, large lots of coins are probably genuine, whether or not ancient. It's not worth it to forge a bunch of coins. A forger would make one or a few valuable-looking ones.

Some other coins were also seized by the authorities in Turkey recently. I have no idea if the artifacts in that lot are genuine. They are outside my expertise. But I do know that the coins were not "ancient Hittite." The Hittites were long gone before coins were invented.

For past apprehensions of artifacts in Turkey, start here and keep following the links.

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