Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Garbage disposal fail in Byzantine-era Elusa

MATERIAL CULTURE: Ancient Garbage Heaps Show Fading Byzantine Empire Was 'Plagued' By Disease and Climate Change (Mindy Weisberger, Live Science).
The researchers discovered that trash disposal — once a well-organized and reliable service in outpost cities like Elusa — ceased around the middle of the sixth century, about 100 years prior to the empire's collapse. At that time, a climate event known as the Late Antique Little Ice Age was taking hold in the Northern Hemisphere, and an epidemic known as the Justinian plague raged through the Roman Empire, eventually killing over 100 million people.
If your trash-disposal system collapses, you know your civilization is in trouble.

The research was just published yesterday. Follow the link for a link to the technical article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Eluza (Halutza) excavation was also in the news recently with the discovery of a Greek inscription that confirmed the identification of the site.

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

New series on the life of Jesus

REVIEW: ‘Jesus: His Life’: a fresh take on the world’s most studied character (John Anderson, America Magazine).
Much about this ambitious series, produced by the U.K.-based Nutopia studio (“Finding Jesus,” “Civilisations”), hews to the established History aesthetic: Dramatic re-enactments that no one will ever confuse with the work of Cecil B. DeMille and background music that roils and swells like an angry Red Sea. But there is also an intellectual integrity at work, and a structure that provides a fresh way of looking at the world’s already most studied life.
The review is based on the first two of eight total episodes.

Also, the University of Iowa has a press release on the series and the contribution to it of Professor Robert Cargill (who is also the chief editor of Biblical Archaeology Review): UI religious-studies professor assists in History Channel docu-series ‘Jesus: His Life.’ (Annie Fitzpatrick, The Daily Iowan).

Professor Mark Goodacre, of Duke University, was also involved.

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Nawotka et al. (eds), The Historiography of Alexander the Great

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: The Historiography of Alexander the Great. Notice of a New Book: Nawotka, Krzysztof, Robert Rollinger, Josef Wiesehöfer & Agnieszka Wojciechowska (eds.). 2019. The Historiography of Alexander the Great (Classica et Orientalia 20). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

This book deals with the vexed problem of isolating early sources for the life of Alexander, important because our main sources for his life come from centuries after his time, but used material written by his contemporaries. The book also has essays dealing with ancient Jewish traditions about Alexander.

For more on Alexander the Great and on his reception in Judaism, see here and links.

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Review of Parthika (ed. Wiesehöfer​ and Müller​)

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Josef Wiesehöfer​, Sabine Müller​ (ed.), Parthika: Greek and Roman Authors' Views of the Arsacid Empire = Griechisch-römische Bilder des Arsakidenreiches. Classica et Orientalia, 15​. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2017. Pp. xiii, 312. ISBN 9783447107648. €78,00. Reviewed by Leonardo Gregoratti, Durham University (DerGrego@gmail.com).

The volume includes a chapter by E.S. Gruen on Josephus and the Parthians.

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Lecture on the archaeology of Israelite women

UPCOMING: Faith & science lecture in April on archaeology of Israelite women (Oak Ridge Today). The lecture by Prof. Erin Darby of the University of Tennessee takes place on 2 April in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
In her presentation in Oak Ridge, she said she “will summarize what archaeology tells us about the lives of Israelite women and will compare and contrast that picture with the descriptions of women in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible and in other ancient Near Eastern documents.”

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Monday, March 25, 2019

Why was the Golden Gate sealed, and who built it?

TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH: The Most Mysterious Gate in Jerusalem's Old City Is Still Puzzling Researchers. Why was the Golden Gate sealed, and who built it? (Nir Hasson, Haaretz Premium).
This is not the first crisis around this gate. Scholars cannot agree on any of the important questions around this structure: Who built it? When? Why was it sealed? What purpose did it serve over the years? In fact, the ambiguity surrounding the Golden Gate is linked to its eschatological role in all three monotheistic religions, but particularly in Judaism and Islam.
Another recent post on the Golden Gate is here.

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Ghost Hebrew in the earliest Hexapla fragment?

GENIZA FRAGMENT OF THE MONTH (MARCH 2019): The Oldest Fragment of Origen's Hexapla: T-S 12.182 (Benjamin Kantor).
In the middle of the third century CE in Caesarea, the church father and biblical scholar Origen compiled the Hexapla (ἑξαπλᾶ ‘six-fold’), so named for its format of six parallel columns. It may in fact be the world’s first parallel Bible. The first column contained Hebrew in Hebrew letters, the second column contained Hebrew in Greek letters (i.e., transcription), the third column contained the Greek translation of Aquila, the fourth column contained the Greek translation of Symmachus, the fifth column contained a version of the Septuagint (LXX), and the sixth column contained the Greek translation of Theodotion. The original probably looked something like this (see further below for the relation of this format to T-S 12.182):

There has been scholarly debate about whether or not there really was a first column (Hebrew in Hebrew letters) as part of the Hexapla, since there are no remains of the first column in any of the extant witnesses. It is only attested in ancient authors’ descriptions of the Hexapla. On the basis of the precise measurements and proportions of this Genizah fragment (T-S 12.182), however, it has been persuasively argued that this palimpsest originally did contain a Hebrew column (see further below).

[...]
The Hexapla was flagged in my original Wish List of Lost Books post back in 2005. Let's hope we find more of it, whether in the Geniza or elsewhere. As we like to say, bit by bit, a letter at at time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.

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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Exodus, Moses, and plagues, oh my!

PASSOVER IS COMING and Bible History Daily is getting ready, with three relevant essays:

Exodus in the Bible and the Egyptian Plagues. Can we make sense of the Biblical plagues? This includes a 1990 essay by Ziony Zevitt from Bible Review.

Who Was Moses? Was He More than an Exodus Hero? Discovering the Biblical Moses. Includes a 2000 essay by Peter Machinist, also from Bible Review. It has been published a couple of times by BHD since. I noted it in 2016.

The Exodus: Fact or Fiction? Evidence of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt. Previously published in 2016 in connection with a pay-only BAR article by Manfred Bietak, but I missed it then.

Some other posts on the question of the historicity of the Exodus are here, here and link, and (sort of) here.

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A new god from Yemen?

CANDIDA MOSS: Was This Just Discovered God Worshipped by the Queen of Sheba? A tablet from Yemen is remarkable because of its inscription: it is the first and only reference to a previously unknown ancient deity named Athtar Harmān (The Daily Beast).

This story was broken by Owen Jarus at Live Science: Ancient Inscription Points to Lost Temple of Unknown God in Yemen. But Professor Moss suggested the connection with the Queen of Sheba. That depends in part on whether the Queen came from Yemen or Ethiopia. Both are possible.

One complication is that the tablet was sold by auction and there is some concern that it may have been looted. So far no one has mentioned an additional concern: if it is unprovenanced, it could be a forgery. Perhaps specialists have good reason to believe it is a real ancient artifact. That question is outside my expertise, but I would like to see an expert address it.

For many past posts on the Queen of Sheba which explore both geographical possibilities, start here and follow the links.

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Gabriel Barkai and Susa

BELATEDLY, PURIM RELATED: DIGGING UP QUEEN ESTHER: THE ISRAELI ARCHAEOLOGIST WHO EXCAVATED IN IRAN. Under the rule of the Shah, Dr. Gabriel Barkai was able to take part in the excavations that took place in Susa, the same city mentioned in the book of Esther (Jerusalem Post). Just to be clear, they did not dig up Queen Esther. But they did find some interesting things, such as the following:
"One of the things I still remember is how they built a small garage near the site which was composed entirely of mud bricks brought in from the dig," he said. "One would believe these were plain bricks but once inside I saw they all had inscriptions from different times," Barkai added.

"The 'garage' was simply a trick," he said, "to prevent them from being stolen! As an Israeli scholar not used to such a great wealth of texts I was stunned, some of the inscriptions were in Aramaic."
For more on Susa, see here.

The Persepolis fortification archives also give us lots of ancient epigraphic material, some in Aramaic, from another ancient capital of Persia. Follow the links back for many posts on the subject.

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Ten biblical(ish) sites

PHOTO ESSAY: Explore 10 Biblical Sites: Photos. These tantalizing archaeological finds may—or may not—offer material evidence of ancient locations, characters and stories written about in the Bible (Sarah Pruitt, History.com). A nice selection and nice photos.

Run the site names through the PaleoJudaica search engine for more on most of them.

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NGSBA Excavation Preliminary Reports

THE AWOL BLOG: Open Access Journal: NGSBA Excavation Preliminary Reports. Containing reports on salvage excavations etc. in Israel. Despite the title, lots of them are labeled as "final reports."

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Why is there no archaeological record of Jesus?

RELIGION PROF: Archaeology and Jesus. James McGrath collects many good links.

As James and Bart Ehrman note, the vast majority (99.99%) of people who lived in Jesus' time and place left no archaeological imprint. Nothing.

A few political figures did. There is the tomb of Queen Helena in Jerusalem, although the sarcophagus inscription may be for another woman in the royal family. And there is also material evidence (coins and inscriptions) for some members of the Herodian family. Also for Pontius Pilate (here, here, and probably here). I'm sure there are others, but I don't have time to be comprehensive.

But most people from Jesus' place and time who left such an imprint were unimportant regular people. It just happens that the epitaphs on their gravestones or ossuaries survived to the present.

How much of an archaeological imprint will you have left two thousand years from now? Humbling thought.

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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Review of The Construction of Time in Antiquity (ed. Ben-Dov and Doering)

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Jonathan Ben-Dov, Lutz Doering (ed.), The Construction of Time in Antiquity: Ritual, Art, and Identity. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Pp. xii, 296. ISBN 9781107108967. £75.00. Reviewed by Kassandra Miller, Union College (millerk3@union.edu).
The Construction of Time in Antiquity, edited by Jonathan Ben-Dov and Lutz Doering, explores, in their words, "the relationship between time and human agency" (p. 3) as it is articulated within a variety of cultures (including Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Christian) and social contexts (political, legal, medical, historical, theological, and artistic). This volume celebrates the diverse and complex ways in which people shape—and are, in turn, shaped by—their own temporal concepts and structures. In addition to nuanced case studies, the thirteen contributing authors also present useful lenses and heuristics that will help future researchers to navigate this exciting, burgeoning field.
I noted the conference that was the basis for the book here.

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What is manna?

ATLAS OBSCURA: The Very Real Search for the Bible’s Mythical Manna Scholars, soldiers, and scientists have long puzzled over the supernatural substance (Erica X Eisen). Then again, maybe it's just a story.

I know, I know. That's no fun. So read on. And for more fun with manna, see here and link.

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The algorithms keep coming for coins

NUMISMATICS: A new method for understanding ancient coin images (Ingrid Fadelli, Tech Xplore).
Two researchers at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, have recently developed a new machine learning-based method for understanding images of ancient coins. Their study, pre-published on arXiv applies computer vision and machine learning to ancient numismatics.

[...]
That's at my home institution.

Earlier I noted a project in Germany with similar aims.

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"Greek Papyri" film classic

VARIANT READINGS: The Film “Greek Papyri.” Brent Nongbri reports that this 1971 film, “Greek Papyri–The Rediscovery of the Ancient World,” is now on YouTube. He adds some information about the cast members in a second post: The Cast in “Greek Papyri.”

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Friday, March 22, 2019

The Economist on Alter's Bible translation

WITH A PODCAST INTERVIEW: A monumental new translation of the Hebrew Bible. Robert Alter’s version has taken decades to produce. He makes the case for a more literary rendering of the ancient text ("Prospero," The Economist).
“The Art of Bible Translation” focuses on five main linguistic elements: syntax, word choice, sound play and word play, rhythm and the language of dialogue. For each of these, Mr Alter provides examples that illustrate the challenges involved, showing how a literary sensibility can affect the outcome for the better. ...
Plus a cautionary tale involving awareness of pop cultural idiom.

For past posts on Alter's translation of the Bible, start here and follow the links.

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Museum exhibit for Beit Shemesh roadworks controversy

ROADWORKS VS. ARCHAEOLOGY UPDATE: In Beit Shemesh, new highway collides with surprise biblical-era settlement. Unusual exhibit at Jerusalem’s Bible Lands Museum, ‘Highway to History,’ examines the State of Israel’s fraught attempts to balance preserving the past and developing the future (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).

The controversy over Highway 38 has sparked a lot of public interest, including a Facebook group calling itself the "Knights of the Tel." But even if the entire site could be preserved, its conservation would require a "unicorn chasing" amount of funding.

Background here and links.

UPDATE: Apologies for the bad link, which is now fixed. Also, I forgot to mention that our friend the god Bes appears in this exhibition.

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The Talmud on the no-meat-with-dairy law

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Kosher Overreach. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’: Are the laws of kashrut based on an overly wide interpretation of a single verse in Deuteronomy?
But Chapter 8 of Chullin is different. It focuses on a subject that is of concern to every Jew who keeps kosher, because it has to do with the consumption of meat rather than its production. This is the prohibition against eating meat and milk in the same meal, which is one of the central rules of kashrut. It may come as a surprise, then, to find that the Torah never actually issues such a prohibition. What the Torah forbids—twice in Exodus and again in Deuteronomy—is much more specific: “You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk.”
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Judaea Capta coin of Agrippa II

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Judaea Capta Coin Uncovered in Bethsaida Excavations. Judaea Capta coin issued by Agrippa II found at Bethsaida (Robin Ngo). This object was discovered and this essay first published in 2014. It was published again in 2016. For some reason it just came up in my searches, so here it is finally.

A recent post involving Herod Agrippa II is here. And for another Judaea Capta coin, this one overstruck during the Bar Kokhba Revolt, see here. Cross-file under Numismatics.

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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Memory and biblical allusions in Esther

IT'S STILL PURIM: Using Memory, Megillat Esther Confronts the Jewish People with their Past (Dr. Orit Avnery, The Torah.com).
Although the book of Esther seems to have “forgotten” important Jewish themes like God, a closer look reveals that memory and biblical allusions play an important role in how the book tells its story.

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Exhibition on Jews, money, and myth

AT THE LONDON JEWISH MUSEUM: Jews Have Been Seen as ‘All About the Benjamins’ for 2,000 Years, New Exhibition Shows. From Judas and his 30 pieces of silver to internet memes presenting avaricious Jewish bankers, anti-Semitic imagery linking Jews to money is nothing new. The ‘Jews, Money, Myth’ exhibition at London’s Jewish Museum is confronting the problem head-on (Daniella Peled, Haaretz premium). Much of the exhibition involves modern materials, some of them quite chilling. But it also includes ancient coins and a letter from the Cairo Geniza.

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Jester Bes vessel excavated

ARCHAEOLOGY AND ICONOGRAPHY: Found in Jerusalem’s City of David: The Egyptian God Bes. Pottery fragment dated to Persian period found in Jerusalemite household garbage pit 2,500 years ago (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz). Unfortunately phrased sub-headline, perhaps jinxed by Bes for fun. The fragment was found recently in the 2,500-year-old pit. It was not found 2,500 years ago, at least not by archaeologists.

For more on Bes and the discoveries at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud, see here and links.

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Julia Berenice

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Women of the Ancient Near East: Julia Berenice. Meet the Herodian royal who “bewitched” a Roman emperor (Carly Silver).
This March 2019 is Women’s History Month. To celebrate, let’s meet Julia Berenice: queen of Judea, political operator in a Roman arena, and lover of Titus—the destroyer of Jerusalem.

[...]
She also attended one of the trials of the Apostle Paul with Herod Agrippa II (Acts 25:13-26:32).

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Site-Seeing Susa

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Site-Seeing: Surprising Susa. Discover the ancient Persian capital (Todd Bolen).
Even for the intrepid traveler who tours Iran, the ancient Persian capital of Susa often gets left off the itinerary. The preferred path through Persia begins at the famous Persepolis, makes a quick stop at Pasargadae, and heads straight north for Isfahan and Tehran. But the Biblical action all happened at Susa. ...
Also Purim related, because of the connection with the Book of Esther.

Todd Bolen is familiar to my regular readers from his Bible Places Blog. I link to it often.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Purim 2019

HAPPY PURIM to all those celebrating! The festival begins tonight at sundown.

Last year's Purim post is here, with links. Posts on Purim since then are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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Hygoye 22.1 (2019)

A NEW ISSUE: Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 22.1 (2019). This is a high-quality, peer-review, open-access journal. Issue 21.2 was noted here. And for more, follow the links from there. Cross-file under Syriac Watch.

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The funny phrasing of Leviticus 1:1

DR. ELAINE GOODFRIEND: Is There a Symbolic Meaning to the Awkward Syntax of Leviticus 1:1? (TheTorah.com).
“And He called to Moses and YHWH spoke to him” (Lev 1:1). Why is YHWH, the subject of this verse, missing from the opening phrase, and appearing only after the second verb? Traditional and critical scholars struggle to explain this syntactic problem.
I'm skeptical. There aren't enough examples to convince me that the explanation offered here is real. But you decide. I just blog.

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Remorseless Cannibals and Loving Scribes in Ethiopic

ETHIOPIC WATCH: Priests, scholars gather to celebrate Princeton’s Ethiopian manuscripts. Ethiopian scholars and priests shared their knowledge of Ethiopia’s ancient tradition of written literature and bound manuscripts with a large audience at Princeton on March 12 (Jamie Saxon, Princeton University Office of Communications).
[Associate Professor Wendy Laura] Belcher said there are three facts about Ethiopia that are critical to understanding the significance of these manuscripts; as many mistakenly assume that Christianity in Africa arrived with Europeans.

“First, the Highland Ethiopians converted to Christianity in the fourth century, before most of Europe had even heard of Christ,” Belcher said. “Second, they have been using an African written language for more than 2,000 years, despite the stereotype that Africa is a place without writing. Third, they have been making bound books since the sixth century. This form of Christianity is really ancient, and has nothing to do with Europe.”

About 20 items from the collections were on display, including biblical books in translation, such the Gospel of John, the apocryphal Enoch and a psalter; as well as indigenous Ethiopian texts, including many saints’ stories (especially those about the Virgin Mary); textual amulets (small scrolls that people carried for protection and good luck); and a rare divination text titled ’The Cycle of Kings.”
The title of the University Library event was “Remorseless Cannibals and Loving Scribes: Samples and Highlights from Princeton University’s Collections of Ethiopian Manuscripts (1500s-1900s).”

For more on Princeton's collection of Ethiopic manuscripts, see here. Also, I am glad to hear that a new English translation of the Kebra Negast is in the works.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Consent and agency in the Book of Esther

PURIM IS COMING: But Queen Vashti Refused: Consent and Agency in the Book of Esther (Dr. Jason M. H. Gaines, TheTorah.com).
Personal agency and consent—granted or withheld—pervade the book of Esther, and are inextricably related to pre-existing power structures such as gender and social status.

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Shayegan (ed.), Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore. Notice of a New Book: Shayegan, Rahim M (ed.). 2019. Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore. Boston: Ilex Foundation. With essays on Cyrus, his historical background, and his reception history.

For many other posts on Cyrus the Great, start here and follow the links.

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On the Machaerus excavation

ARCHAEOLOGY: Lost biblical fortress of Machaerus restored after 50 years of excavations (Saeb Rawashdeh, Jordan Times).
AMMAN — Prior to 1968, the hilltop of Machaerus, overlooking the Dead Sea near Mount Nebo was an untouched “virgin” site, according to Hungarian archaeologist Gyozo Voros.

Speaking at the “Book Launch and Public Lecture Machaerus III” event at American Centre of Oriental Research on Wednesday, Voros said that 50 years of excavation had finally uncovered a mountain of evidence on one of the most important sites in the region.

[...]
A long, thorough article on the site and the excavation. For past PaleoJudaica posts on Győző Vörös's excavation of Machaerus (the reputed site of the execution of John the Baptist), see here and links. And for past posts on John the Baptist, see here and links

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On John the Baptist

CANDIDA MOSS: The Misunderstood Man Behind Lent. Lent commemorates the forty days and nights that Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism. But Jesus never would have ended up there if not for the work of John the Baptist (The Daily Beast).

John Turner also has republished an essay on The Head of John the Baptist in The Anxious Bench

Some past posts on the Baptist, one of which also brings in the intriguing Mandean (Mandaean) traditions about him, are here, here, here, here, and here.

Incidentally, Salome is not actually mentioned by name in the New Testament accounts of the beheading of John the Baptist. One reading in Mark 6:22 gives the name of the daughter as the same as her mother, "Herodias." But this may be a mistake for a reference to her as the daughter of Herodias. Scholars generally seem to read the New Testament story alongside Josephus's and identify the daughter as Salome.

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Talmudic-era wine press and mosaic excavated at Korazim

ARCHAEOLOGY: ANCIENT WINE PRESS WITH TALMUDIC PERIOD MOSAIC FLOOR DISCOVERED IN GALILEE. This is the only mosaic from the time of the Talmud that has been found in the ancient Jewish village of Korazim (Jerusalem Post). The mosaic has a "patterns of squares and diamond shapes."

The town was also around in the time of Jesus. It is known as Chorazin in the New Testament.

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Review of Stone, Secret Groups in Ancient Judaism

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Secret Groups in Ancient Judaism (James Tucker).
Stone, Michael E. Secret Groups in Ancient Judaism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. ix + 192. Hardback $74.00. ISBN 9780190842383
Excerpt:
An analysis of the insider and outsider sources can illuminate how secrecy and esotericism were realized apropos the social practices of initiation, graded revelation, and hierarchical structure. This is Stone’s claim, and indeed the study provides a strong argument to demonstrate its utility.
I noted the publication of the book here. And you are likely to be hearing more from me about it. Stay tuned!

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The Golden Gate of the Temple Mount

LEEN RITMEYER: The Golden Gate of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The interior of the Golden Gate in the 1970’s. This gate has been in the news lately.

Cross-file under Temple Mount Watch.

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Free articles from AJS Review

H-JUDAIC: AJS Review FirstView: 3 Full Free Articles Available Online. Two have to do with Rabbinics:
A Seven-Headed Demon in the House of Study: Understanding a Rabbinic Demon in Light of Zoroastrian, Christian, and Babylonian Textual Traditions by Sara Ronis

From Dungeon to Haven: Competing Theories of Gestation in Leviticus Rabbah and the Babylonian Talmud by Shana Strauch Schick
For you, special deal!

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Korean translation of Mishnah in the works

TALMUD WATCH: Korean Govt. Mishna Translation Project to Be Published in 2020 (David Israel, The Jewish Press).

Past posts on the popularity of the "Talmud" (i.e., a book of Talmudic stories) in South Korea are here and links. But this new story is about a full translation of the actual Mishnah.

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Hurtado on Magdala

LARRY HURTADO: Magdala: A Galilean Town. A reviewlet of Richard Bauckham (ed.), Magdala of Galilee: A Jewish City in the Hellenistic and Roman Period, on which more here and links. For additional posts on Magdala follow the links there and see also here and here.

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Persian Islamic stories about Esther

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Muslims and the Bible, Biblicists and Islam

Muslims have long known of the Bible and its contents. There, are, however, specific corners of the Bible that have been of especial interest to Muslims, not (merely) because they overlap with Muslim scriptural traditions but because they overlap with local, cultural ones.

See Also: Veiling Esther, Unveiling Her Story: The Reception of a Biblical Book in Islamic Lands, Oxford, 2018).

By Adam J. Silverstein
Department of Middle Eastern Studies
Bar Ilan, Tel Aviv
March 2019
The author thinks that some of the Persian Islamic stories about Esther preserve very early pre-Islamic traditions.

Purim is near.

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Legends about Esther

PURIM IS COMING: Queen Esther inspired many midrashim (By Rabbi Dr. Israel Drazin, San Diego Jewish World).
BOCA RATON, Florida — In my book, Unusual Bible Interpretations: Ruth, Esther, and Judith, I showed that Judith, in the apocrypha, the book Jewish ancestors decided not to include in the Bible, was more observant of Jewish practices than Ruth and Esther. The rabbis did not see this in this way and even invented many tales to show how righteous Ruth and Esther were. Here is a chapter from the book about Esther.

People invented many legends, called Midrashim, about the story of Esther. This is not surprising. The biblical tale raises a host of questions about the people in the book, their intentions and actions. The following legends were taken from Louis Ginzberg’s masterful seven-volume The Legends of the Jews. Ginzberg devotes 83 pages to Esther, more pages than the original biblical version. These ancient tales will disturb many people because they depict biblical figures in a strange often bizarre manner. But most of these tales are found in the Talmud and other rabbinical writings. They were prepared as parables and were not designed to relate facts, but to teach significant moral lessons.

[...]
Some of them are pretty strange.

For more on Ginzberg's Legends of the Jews, see here and links. You can read his chapter on Esther, minus the notes, here.

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Leviticus 4-5: sin, guilt, and rhetoric

PROF. JAMES W. WATTS: Leviticus’ Rhetorical Presentation of the Sin and Guilt Offerings (TheTorah.com).
The transition from the chatat (חטאת) sin offering in Leviticus 4 to the asham (אשׁם) guilt offering in Leviticus 5 is sudden, even seeming to collapse them into one offering. The history of these offerings, when and why they were introduced into the Temple service, sheds light on the interpretation and structure of these chapters.

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Review of Bull, The Mithraeum at Caesarea Maritima, vol. II

BYRN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Robert J. Bull, The Mithraeum at Caesarea Maritima, vol. II. American Schools of Oriental Research archeological reports, 25. Bristol: American Schools of Oriental Research, 2017. Pp. xiii, 100. ISBN 9780897570978. $74.95. Reviewed by Kevin Stoba, University of Liverpool (k.stoba@liverpool.ac.uk).
The mithraeum at Caesarea Maritima was constructed within an existing horreum, one of several such warehouses which had been built by Herod the Great at the end of the first century BC. There have already been several brief publications on this mithraeum (p. xi), but the present volume, edited by Jane DeRose Evans, provides much more thorough and comprehensive analysis of in situ Mithraic activity, which dates from the beginning of the third century AD to the beginning of the fourth century. ...
For a recent photo essay on the Mithraeum at Caesarea, see here.

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Aries 19.1 (2019) on Practical Kabbalah

CURRENT ARIES (19.1, 2019) SPECIAL ISSUE: PRACTICAL KABBALAH. Contents:
Practical Kabbalah
Guest Editors’ Introduction
By: J.H. (Yossi) Chajes and Yuval Harari
Pages: 1–5
Publication Date: 02 Jan 2019

How Jewish Magic Survived the Disenchantment of the World
By: Gideon Bohak
Pages: 7–37
Publication Date: 02 Jan 2019

“Practical Kabbalah” and the Jewish Tradition of Magic
By: Yuval Harari
Pages: 38–82
Publication Date: 02 Jan 2019

Intentionality and Kabbalistic Practices in Early Modern East-Central Europe
By: Agata Paluch
Pages: 83–111
Publication Date: 02 Jan 2019

Kabbalah Practices / Practical Kabbalah
The Magic of Kabbalistic Trees
By: J.H. Chajes
Pages: 112–145
Publication Date: 02 Jan 2019

Review Essay
New Lights on Oracles, Platonists, and Esotericism in Late Antiquity
By: Dylan M. Burns
Pages: 147–158
Publication Date: 02 Jan 2019

The Siblys of London: A Family on the Esoteric Fringes of Georgian England, by Susan Mitchell Sommers
By: Christine Ferguson
Pages: 159–162
Publication Date: 02 Jan 2019

Satanic Feminism: Lucifer as the Liberator of Woman in Nineteenth-Century Culture, by Per Faxneld
By: Michele Olzi
Pages: 163–166
Publication Date: 02 Jan 2019
At the Brill website, but, alas, requires a paid personal or institutional subscription to access. But I'm pretty sure you can see the abstracts without one.

HT Dylan Burns at the NSEA Blog.

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Koskenniemi, Greek Writers and Philosophers in Philo and Josephus

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Greek Writers and Philosophers in Philo and Josephus

A Study of Their Secular Education and Educational Ideals


Series:
Studies in Philo of Alexandria, Volume: 9
Author: Erkki Koskenniemi

In Greek Writers and Philosophers in Philo and Josephus Erkki Koskenniemi investigates how two Jewish writers, Philo and Josephus, quoted, mentioned and referred to Greek writers and philosophers. He asks what this tells us about their Greek education, their contacts with Classical culture in general, and about the societies in which Philo and Josephus lived. Although Philo in Alexandria and Josephus in Jerusalem both had the possibility to acquire a thorough knowledge of Greek language and culture, they show very different attitudes. Philo, who was probably admitted to the gymnasium, often and enthusiastically refers to Greek poets and philosophers. Josephus on the other hand rarely quotes from their works, giving evidence of a more traditionalistic tendencies among Jewish nobility in Jerusalem.

Publication Date: 26 February 2019
ISBN: 978-90-04-39192-5

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Friday, March 15, 2019

“The World Between Empires” at the Met

EXHIBITION: See Ancient Trade Route Treasures at the Met. “The World Between Empires,” linking present and past, celebrates the distinctive art from all the cultures of the Middle East (Holland Cotter, New York Times).
Finally, through their arrangement of those objects — around 190, which date roughly from 100 B.C. to 250 A.D. — the curators make clear why imperial Rome and Parthia were so invested on asserting control of the Middle Eastern “world between”: because one of the most extensive and lucrative trade routes on earth stretched across it, and, gallery by gallery, culture by culture, the exhibition traces its path.

This begins in Southwestern Arabia (modern-day Yemen) and moves north to the kingdom of Nabataea — an ally of the Roman Empire — with its rock-cut capital at Petra (now in Jordan). From there the route continues through the rebellious territory of Judaea (Israel and Palestine), to the ritual center of Heliopolis-Baalbek in present-day Lebanon. Finally come the route’s grand, easternmost cities, until very recently well-preserved ruins: Palmyra and Dura-Europos in Syria, and Babylon and Hatra in Iraq. In the art at each stop, imperial influence is evident, if only as an overlay, and local traditions hold their own.
The article has good photos of many of the remarkable objects in the exhibition. Looks well worth a visit.

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The architects side with the Karaites

KARAITE-AND-CABLE-CAR-CONFLICT WATCH: Internationally renowned architects add opposition to Jerusalem cable car plan. Ron Arad, Moshe Safdie, Santiago Calatrava among 27 figures charging that ‘powerful interest groups’ are putting tourism and politics above safeguarding cultural treasures (Sue Surkes, Times of Israel).

The article only mentions the opposition to the cable car plan by the local Karaite community at the very end. But more on that here.

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On mistranslations of biblical words

BELIEFNET: Biblical Translations We Keep Screwing Up. You keep using that word. It does not mean what you think it means (Stephanie Hertzenberg).

Two comments. First the section on the word Asherah is correct that it means more than just a "sacred pole" and that it is associated with the Canaanite goddess Asherah. But the Hebrew word is used with the definite article, which means it refers to an object rather than directly to the goddess herself. (Personal names cannot take definite articles.) So perhaps translate "Asherah's sacred pole" or some such?

For many past posts on Asherah and the asherah, see here and here and links.

Second, "Lo Tirtsah does mean "you shall not murder" in certain contexts, but the range meaning is wider than that. It also refers to when someone accidentally kills someone else (which we call "manslaughter"). The verb means something like "to kill without provocation" or "to kill in cold blood." Additional details are here.

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Opening Jerusalem's Nea Church to the public?

PETITIONED BY EMEK SHAVEH: Decades after discovery, Jerusalem’s Byzantine masterpiece may open to public (Ilan Ben Zion, Al-Monitor). The article reports that the Nea Church was founded by the Emperor Justinian in the sixth century. It was excavated in the 1970s by Nahman Avigad, but most of its subterranean vaults still remain closed to the public.
But Daniel Shukrun, secretary of the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter, told Al-Monitor that the Nea Church vaults are presently unsafe for the general public. In late 2017, the company conducted a major clean-up operation inside the subterranean chambers to clear out years of accumulated bat droppings and refuse, but the area remains unsuitable for tourists, he said.

“The sanitation problems were so severe down there that we couldn’t even understand what we were up against,” he added. Nonetheless, Shukrun said that in light of Emek Shaveh’s petition, the company has gotten the ball rolling on evaluating a development plan for the Nea Church ruins.
But he says that it would cost a lot of money.

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Halutza ("Elusa") inscription

EPIGRAPHY: Archaeological Excavations Reveal 1700 Year-Old Inscription of City Named ‘Elusa’ (Halutza) in the Negev (Jewish Press News Desk).
The name of the city of Elusa appears in a number of historical documents and contexts, including the Madaba mosaic map, the Nessana papyri and other historical references. However, this is the first time that the name of the city has been discovered in the site itself. The inscription mentions several Caesars of the tetrarchy which allow to date it around 300 CE.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Halutza is also one of two possible sites for the biblical city of Ziklag.

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Pi Day 2019

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Origins: 3.14159265… Why did the ancients invent increasingly subtle and ingenious methods to arrive at an exact value of pi? Human curiosity (Kim Jonas).

For more on Pi Day and Pi and Judaism, see here and here and links.

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Fishbane on poetics of the Zohar

THE BOOK OF DOCTRINES AND OPINIONS BLOG: Eitan Fishbane on The Art of Mystical Narrative: A Poetics of the Zohar.

Alan Brill interviews Professor Fishbane on his new book, The Art of Mystical Narrative: A Poetics of the Zohar (Oxford University Press, 2018). There is also a survey of recent scholarship on the Zohar. Excerpt from the long interview:
12) If this is the Zohar, then why read Zohar instead of Lord of Rings, Harry Potter, or Game of Thrones?

Certainly, it is a unique literary world unto itself, which is not reducible to these later instances of fantastic storytelling. But it does share certain features with the magical classics you mention here, the creation of a paranormal universe in which characters are transported beyond the bounds of our normal expectations within natural law.
I noted a panel discussion on the book here. And for many, many past posts on the Zohar, start there and follow the links. Cross-file under Zohar Watch.

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Judaism and Coptic Magic

THE COPTIC MAGICAL PAPYRI BLOG: Religion in the Coptic Magical Papyri IX: Judaism and Coptic Magic (Korshi Dosoo). A wide-ranging post that starts with background on the history of Judaism in Egypt and goes on to specific magical traditions and texts, including a new Coptic magical papyrus involving Solomon.

I have noted the previous posts in the series here and here.

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Dos and don'ts: cooking for the Sabbath

DR. SARIT KATTAN GRIBETZ: Shabbat with Food: From Biblical Prohibitions to Rabbinic Feasts (TheTorah.com).
Biblical prohibitions against preparing food on Shabbat are further developed in the Second Temple and rabbinic periods. At the same time, a new emphasis emerges: celebrating Shabbat with festive meals.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

More on the Roman Temple of Peace

THE HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: Rome — Temple of Peace and a Map of Ancient Rome. Carl Rasmussen gives some further background on the Roman temple where the treasures of the Jerusalem Temple were kept after the Great Revolt of 70 C.E.

Background here and here, with Part 3 still to come.

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Purim was regulated in the Theodosian Code

PURIM IS COMING: The Romans tried to ban wild Purim parties in 408 CE – for a very good reason (Henry Abramson, JTA).
An unusual bit of the Theodosian Code (16.8.18) is apparently the first non-Jewish source to document the phenomenon of Purim parties that get out of hand. Specifically, the law prohibited Jews from burning Haman in effigy. For Jews, the practice of symbolically destroying the notorious villain of the book of Esther, the paradigm of anti-Semitism, was considered an aspect of the Purim commandment to “erase the name of Amalek,” Haman’s Jew-hating ancestor.
The issue seems to have arisen over a misunderstanding of the biblical account of Haman's death.

UPDATE (19 March): I see I noted another story on this topic here.

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Blank cartridges and a fake manuscript

APPREHENDED: Turkish police seize ancient manuscript stolen from Syrian museum (Anadolu Agency/Hurriyet Daily News). The Turkish authorities continue to round up fake ancient artifacts before they reach the antiquities market.

This codex bears the hallmarks of a crude modern fake. Most importantly, the writing on the page shown in the photo consists of lines of meaningless sequences of Hebrew letters with frequent repetition.

There are other suspicious features. The letters are written in gold leaf. The material and cut of the pages is similar to other fakes. There is a drawing, in this case of a wyvern-like creature. The drawing doesn't look very old to me, but I'm not an art historian.

The police also recovered (from the car of the suspects) a gun that fires blanks. Metaphor Watch?

The information that the book was stolen from a Syrian museum comes from the apprehended suspects, who may not be very reliable sources for provenance information. It would not surprise me, though, if it did come from Syria.

Many such artifacts have been apprehended recently in Turkey. The only ones I think are likely to be genuine are some coins. For past apprehensions, start here and keep following the links back. And this post on recent Hebrew forgeries from Arab countries seems relevant too.

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Some early Christian women

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY reposted some posts on women in the New Testament and the New Testament Apocrypha, leading up to International Women's Day, which was last Friday.

Anna in the Bible. Luke reveals the prophetess as a Biblical model for aging (Robin Gallaher Branch)

Who Was Thecla? The early Christian saint, rebel, and protagonist of the Acts of Thecla (Megan Sauter)

Some past PaleoJudaica posts on Thecla are here and links and here.

Lydia and Tabitha in the Bible. Women leaders in the early Christian church (Megan Sauter)

For more on Tabitha and Lydia follow the links for posts by Phil Long in his series on the Book of Acts at his Reading Acts Blog.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Seleucid coins, Part 3

NUMISMATICS: CoinWeek Ancient Coin Series – The Seleucids and Their Coins: Part III (Mike Markowitz, Coin Week). The Hebrew Bible does not mention any of these Seleucid kings. But all of those covered in this installment appear in 1 Maccabees and some also in 2 Maccabees.

I noted Part I of this series here. Also there, see a link for more on the Seleucids. And I noted part Part II here.

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How Old is the Hebrew Bible? - authors respond to Young and Rezetko

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Flawed Philology

Young and Rezetko’s whole discourse is oriented to the outcome, dictated from the start, that there is no historical linguistics of ancient Hebrew. This is a disingenuous procedure that makes for flawed philology.

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


By Ronald Hendel
Norma and Sam Dabby Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies
University of California, Berkeley

By Jan Joosten
Regius Professor of Hebrew
University of Oxford
March 2019
Background here. For other posts on the book that was under review (Hendel and Joosten, How Old is the Hebrew Bible?), follow the links there (cf. here).

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On Herod the Great

THE WORLD IS FULL OF HISTORY: Who Was the Real King Herod? (Owen Jarus, Live Science). An excellent capsule history of the life of Herod the Great.

The subheading "Did he kill Jesus?" is odd, because it doesn't fit the contents of what follows. Perhaps it should have read "Did he try to kill Jesus?"

For many past posts on Herod the Great, start here and just follow those links.

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On the Copper Scroll

ON THE SUBJECT OF TREASURE AGAIN: The Lost Treasure of the Dead Sea Copper Scroll (Joanna Gillan, Ancient Origins). As I have noted before, the quality of the essays in Ancient Origins is variable. This one is pretty good. It gives an accurate account of the discovery of the Copper Scroll, its contents, and some possible explanations of its contents. The essay could have added that one interpretation reads the amounts of treasure to be much smaller — and therefore more believable — than the traditional interpretation.

The essay concludes with the current efforts of one Jim Barfield to find the Copper Scroll treasures. I have commented on that here and links. For reasons explained there, I do not find Mr. Barfield's claims to be credible.

For many other past posts on the Copper Scroll, start here and follow the links.

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Monday, March 11, 2019

Feldman, Story and Sacrifice

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight | Story and Sacrifice: Ritual, Narrative, and the Priestly Source.
Liane M. Feldman, “Story and Sacrifice: Ritual, Narrative, and the Priestly Source,” PhD Dissertation, University of Chicago, 2018.
Excerpt:
With these questions in mind, my dissertation centered on the eight-day tabernacle inauguration episode in Exodus 40 through Numbers 8, with an eye to two interrelated issues: 1) the question of the relationship between ritual and narrative in pentateuchal literature, and 2) the issue of identifying stratification within a narrative text. This second issue prompted the development of a new narratologically-based approach for the analysis of composite narrative texts that I use throughout the dissertation, and which, I argue, would prove fruitful for the study of the Hebrew Bible and Pentateuch more generally.

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The latest on the Tomb of Ezekiel

AJAM MEDIA COLLECTIVE: A Jewish Shrine inside a Mosque: the History of Ezekiel’s Tomb in Iraq (Alex Shams). An impressive, comprehensive history of the (traditional) Tomb of Ezekiel in Al-Kifl, Iraq, with many excellent photographs. It includes an update on the restoration work, which was noted here in 2010. According to the article, the "compromise" involved erasing Hebrew inscriptions from the mosque section, which does not sound very satisfactory to me.

I have been following the fate of the (traditional) Tomb of Ezekiel for many years. For other past posts, start here and follow the links.

HT AJR.

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Najman on the DSS at 70

VIDEO: The Dead Sea Scrolls 70 Years On. A lecture by Professor Hindy Najman posted by Chabad at Oxford.


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CFP: ETS LXX 2019

WILLIAM ROSS: 2019 ETS SEPTUAGINT STUDIES CALL FOR PAPERS. The deadline for proposals is 29 March 2019.

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Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Temple treasures and the Temple of Peace

THE HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: A.D. 70 The Destruction of the Temple — Where did the Temple Treasure Go? Part 2. In this installment, Carl Rasmussen tells us the fate of the Temple treasures in Rome. But for what happened to them after that, we have wait for Part 3.

Meanwhile, for Part 1 and additional coverage of the question, see here and links.

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Unpublished Oxyrhynchus biblical papyri

THE EGYPT EXPLORATION SOCIETY: Unpublished EES biblical papyri. In brief, among the unpublished papyrus fragments from Oxyrhynchus, there are 20 New Testament fragments, 80 Septuagint (i.e., Greek Old Testament) fragments, and 10 patristic fragments. Follow the link for a few more details.

I hope they publish a more detailed list of which books the fragments come from. Also, I wonder if they are aware of any unpublished fragments of Old Testament pseudepigrapha? The most recent volume included some of Jannes and Jambres.

HT Brent Nongbri at Variant Readings.

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Hannibal and the Second Punic War

PUNIC WATCH: Who was Hannibal? Sworn by his father to forever hate the Romans, Hannibal staged one of the most legendary attacks in the history of military warfare on the formidable army (National Geographic). Because you should know these things.

For past posts on Hannibal and his remarkably military campaign against Rome, see here and links. If Hannibal's luck had been a little better, the learned language of medieval Europe would have been Punic instead of Latin.

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T&T Clark Handbook to Early Christian Meals in the Greco-Roman World (ed. Al-Suadi and Smit)

NEW BOOK FROM BLOOMSBURY/T&T CLARK:
T&T Clark Handbook to Early Christian Meals in the Greco-Roman World

Editor(s): Soham Al-Suadi, Peter-Ben Smit

Published: 21-02-2019
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 416
ISBN: 9780567666406
Imprint: T&T Clark
Series: T&T Clark Handbooks
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
RRP: £130.00
Online price: £117.00
Save £13.00 (10%)

About T&T Clark Handbook to Early Christian Meals in the Greco-Roman World
This handbook situates early Christian meals in their broader context, with a focus on the core topics that aid understanding of Greco-Roman meal practice, and how this relates to Christian origins. In addition to looking at the broader Hellenistic context, the contributors explain the unique nature of Christian meals, and what they reveal about early Christian communities and the development of Christian identity.

Beginning with Hellenistic documents and authors before moving on to the New Testament material itself, according to genre - Gospels, Acts, Letters, Apocalyptic Literature - the handbook culminates with a section on the wider resources that describe daily life in the period, such as medical documents and inscriptions. The literary, historical, theological and philosophical aspects of these resources are also considered, including such aspects as the role of gender during meals; issues of monotheism and polytheism that arise from the structure of the meal; how sacrifice is understood in different meal practices; power dynamics during the meal and issues of inclusion and exclusion at meals.
There is also a lot of discussion of meals in ancient Jewish contexts.

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Saturday, March 09, 2019

Magic and the savage philosopher

THE COPTIC MAGICAL PAPYRI BLOG: Anthropology of Magic I: Darwin, Tylor, and the Origins of Religion and Magic. The first in a new series on the history of modern scholarship on magic. Very informative.

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More on the new trilingual inscription from Iran

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: DNf: A New Inscription Emerges from the Shadow.

DNf is that trilingual inscription found recently near the tomb of Darius the Great, noted here. Follow the first link above for the article that published the inscription. I have only had time to skim it. It is technical, but a good bit of it is reader friendly.

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Did Exodus revise the Code of Hammurapi?

PROF. DAVID WRIGHT: How Exodus Revises the Laws of Hammurabi (TheTorah.com).
A close look at the laws of assault recorded in Exodus’ Covenant Collection demonstrates that the author knew the Laws of Hammurabi and revised them to fit with Israelite legal and ethical conceptions.
Could be. The question that occurs to me is could an Israelite legislator or scribe in the mid-monarchical period have had access to copies of the Code of Hammurapi (Hammurabi) and have read in it Assyrian Akkadian? Presumably Prof. Wright addresses that question in his 2009 book, which I have not seen.

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Was Jesus an entrepreneur?

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION:
Fishing for Entrepreneurs in the Sea of Galilee? Unmasking Neoliberal Ideology in Biblical Interpretation

Rather than emphasize the fishermen’s moral decision to follow Jesus and its associated economic cost, I implore we instead read these narratives as embedded within a broader context of widespread social upheaval and as gesturing towards unrest among the lower classes.

Chapter in Class Struggle in the New Testament (Lexington Books/Fortress Academic, 2019), pp. 115-137.

By Robert J. Myles
Murdoch University
Perth, Australia
Jesus wasn't a capitalist. But he wasn't a Marxist either.

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Friday, March 08, 2019

The Talmud on same-day slaughter of related animals

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Offspring Fever. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ prohibitions against slaughtering the young of sacrificed livestock reveal the thoroughness and complexity of Talmudic study of contingencies.
The first four chapters of Tractate Chullin went into great anatomical detail about the correct way to slaughter animals. But in Chapter 5, the focus shifted from sinews and windpipes to a seemingly simple rule that turns out to conceal a number of puzzles. Leviticus 22 lists several conditions that invalidate an animal for sacrifice, including this one: “And whether it is a bull or a sheep, you shall not slaughter it and its offspring both in one day.” It’s only a few words, but exploring their full implications turns out to take several pages of Talmudic debate.

[...]
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Cable car and Karaite conflict

KARAITE WATCH: Tiny Jewish sect protests controversial Jerusalem cable car project. Planned Old City tourist attraction draws further criticism as Karaites warn construction is insult to community’s ancient cemetery (Ilan Ben Zion, AP). Review: the Karaites are a non-rabbinic community of Jews whose origin goes back at least to the early Middle Ages. They reject the rabbinic concept of the Oral Torah.

It sounds as though there has been some miscommunication between the Jerusalem Development Authority and the Karaite community. I hope they are able to find a resolution.

For many past PaleoJudaica posts on the Karaites, start here and follow the links.

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Closing in on the lost tomb of Alexander the Great?

ARCHAEOLOGY: New clues to the lost tomb of Alexander the Great discovered in Egypt. Excavations in Alexandria's ancient royal quarter provide intriguing hints to the famous conqueror's final resting place (ERIN BLAKEMORE, National Geographic). Archaeologist Calliope Limneos-Papakosta has reached the earliest layer of ancient Alexandria's royal quarter and she is following leads that she hopes will take her to Alexander's tomb.

Ancient Judaism took an interest in Alexander the Great, in the Bible and elsewhere. So I like to keep track of news about him. For past posts see here and links.

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Thousands of ancient(?) coins seized in Turkey

APPREHENDED: Suspected smugglers of ancient coins nabbed. Suspects in western Kutahya province allegedly attempted to sell 5,000 Roman- and Byzantine-era coins (Anadolu Agency/Yeni Ṣafek). Noted for completeness. I have been following stories of the seizing of potentially interesting smuggled artifacts by the Turkish authorities. So far all of these have turned out to be of dubious authenticity or else genuine, but of recent vintage.

These coins could be ancient. They could also be forgeries or they could be genuine, but relatively recent. The photo in the article is uninformative. We may never know.

On balance, it hardly seems worthwhile to fake so many coins. Forgers would concentrate on faking a few valuable-seeming ones. So my assumption is that at least most of these coins are genuine, but (for whatever reason) of little market value.

This story is also covered by the Daily Sabah with a few more details.

Background here and many links. Cross-file under Numismatics.

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Studies in Honor of Professor Shaul Shaked (ed. Friedmann & Kohlberg)

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Studies in Honor of Professor Shaul Shaked. Notice of a New Book: Friedmann, Yohanan & Etan Kohlberg (eds.). (2019). Studies in Honor of Professor Shaul Shaked. Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences.

Follow the link for the TOC. Looks like a great lineup of contributors and topics.

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Thursday, March 07, 2019

Where Did the Temple Treasure Go?

MORE ON THE TEMPLE TREASURES: A.D. 70 The Destruction of the Temple — Where Did the Temple Treasure Go? Part 1 (Carl Rasmussen, the Holy Land Photos' Blog). Part 1 tells where the Romans deposited the Temple treasures, but not what happened to them after that. Maybe in Part 2?

The question becomes much harder to answer from that point. But there has been plenty of legend and speculation to fill in the gap.

Meanwhile, at PaleoJudaica, the post just before this one is relevant to the question, especially when you follow the links. And see also here and links.

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On the Ark of the Covenant

BECAUSE YOU SHOULD KNOW THESE THINGS: What Is the Ark of the Covenant? (Owen Jarus, Live Science). A nice summary of the biblical evidence for the Ark, along with some speculation about possible pre-biblical form(s) and a survey of post-biblical legends.

For past PaleoJudaica posts on the Ark of the Covenant, start here (cf. here and follow the links.

For the legendary Treatise of the Vessels, which tells the supposed story of the fate of the Temple treasures and the Ark after the Babylonian destruction of the Temple, start here and follow the links.

I published the first complete English translation of the Treatise of the Vessels back in 2013. Then five years ago Mr. Jarus broke that story in the media. That led to the Daily Mail naming me a "real-life Indiana Jones."

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Museum of the Bible lecture series on Jerusalem and Rome

PROF. LAWRENCE H. SCHIFFMAN: JERUSALEM AND ROME SPECIAL SPEAKER SERIES. The first lecture is on 25 March. Follow the link for ticket information.

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JSJ 50th anniversary freebies

THE AWOL BLOG: 50 Years Journal for the Study of Judaism: Limited Open Access.
To celebrate the 50th volume of the Journal for the Study of Judaism, selected articles from the past 50 volumes will be available for free downloading during 2019. A new batch of 5 articles will become available every month)
For you, special deal!

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Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Concannon on "Goy"

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Paul, the Gentiles, and the Other(s) in Jewish Discourse (Cavan Concannon).
While I think that Ophir and Rosen-Zvi make as convincing a case as any modern Pauline scholar for how Paul might be read, I think that their reading is subject to the same problems that have long bedeviled modern (or, for that matter, ancient) readers who have tried to read Paul’s letters as though they were engaged in a systematic project. Like the biblical and Pauline conception of the “remnant” (164), there is always a remainder that escapes systematization. ...
Another installment in the AJR forum on Ophir and Rosen-Zvi, Goy, on which more here and links.

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The textual and linguistic history of Deuteronomy 33:2

THE ETC BLOG: Deuteronomy 33:2 in Textual and Linguistic Perspectives. John Meade interacts with some exegesis by Hendel and Joosten in How Old is the Hebrew Bible?

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Review of Furstenberg (ed.), Jewish and Christian Communal Identities in the Roman World

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Yair Furstenberg (ed.), Jewish and Christian Communal Identities in the Roman World. Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity, 94. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2016. Pp. xi, 286. ISBN 9789004321212. $149.00. Reviewed by Bradley J. Bitner, Oak Hill College (bradb@oakhill.ac.uk).
This is a stimulating, well-edited volume and will be useful to a wide range of ancient historians and scholars of Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity. The range of methods, sources and macro-/micro-historical perspectives employed is admirably wide. An ancient sources index would have been most welcome alongside the author and general indexes.

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Law, Literature, and Society in Legal Texts from Qumran (ed. Jokiranta and Zahn)

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Law, Literature, and Society in Legal Texts from Qumran

Papers from the Ninth Meeting of the International Organisation for Qumran Studies, Leuven 2016


Series:
Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah, Volume: 128

Editors: Jutta Jokiranta and Molly Zahn

Reflecting the increasing recognition of the importance of legal texts and issues in early Judaism, the essays in this collection examine halakhic and rule texts found at Qumran in light of the latest scholarship on text production, social organization, and material culture in early Judaism. The contributors present new interpretations of long-lived topics, such as the sobriquet “seekers of the smooth things,” the Treatise of the Two Spirits, and 4QMMT, and take up new approaches to purity issues, the role of the maśkil, and the Temple Scroll. The volume exemplifies the range of ways in which the Qumran legal texts help illuminate early Jewish culture as a whole.

Publication Date: 11 February 2019
ISBN: 978-90-04-39338-7

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Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Baffling graffiti vandalism of Mount Meron synagogue

THIS IS STRANGE. AND SAD. Graffiti spray-painted on 1,800-year-old synagogue on Galilee’s Mount Meron. For the second time in four years, the 3rd-century house of prayer is vandalized by religious extremists near the tomb of the Talmudic sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
One of the walls was sprayed — apparently without irony — with “This holy place will not be desecrated. You have been warned.” Other graffiti specifically targeted the IAA, stating, “There will not be an archaeological park here,” and “Mount Meron is not abandoned.”
The really baffling part is this:
The synagogue site, where no active digs are planned, is conserved as part of a government project and is part of a nature reserve. No archaeological park is planned for the area.
The article mentions the graffiti vandalism of the same synagogue in 2015, which I noted here. For more on Mount Meron in connection with Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Yohai) and the annual Lag B'Omer celebrations, see here and links. For the tomb of Rabbi Shimon, see here and here and links.

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DSS postdoc at Haifa University

RELIGION PROF: Scripta Qumranica Electronica Post-doctoral Fellowship at the University of Haifa (James McGrath). The deadline for applications is 25 March, 2019. Don't dawdle!

For more on the project, see here and links.

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More New Testament Apocrypha, volume 3!

THE APOCRYPHICITY BLOG: More New Testament Apocrypha vol. 3. Tony Burke announces plans for a third volume of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures. Volume 2 is now in the hands of the publisher, Eerdmans. Both announcements are good news.

For a recent update on the progress of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, vol. 2 (MOTP2), see here. We have no plans for a third volume.

UPDATE: I meant to add that you can read my four-part review of MNTA1 here and links.

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Biblical Studies Carnival 156

THE DUST BLOG: Biblical Studies Carnival 156 February 2019 (Bob MacDonald). The Lego Edition?

Also see some comments on the Carnival by organizer Phil Long here.

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Monday, March 04, 2019

The Seleucid coins, Part 2

NUMISMATICS: CoinWeek Ancient Coin Series – The Seleucids and Their Coins: Part II (Mike Markowitz). Some of the Seleucids in this article are mentioned in the Book of Daniel, although not by name. Seleucid figures are in bold font in what follows.

There is an error at the beginning of the article: Antiochus III the Great was the brother of Seleucus III, not his son.

They both appear in Daniel 11:10 as "his [Seleucus II's] two sons. Then Antiochus III is the main subject of vv. 11-19 as "the king of the south."

Seleucus IV Philopater appears in Daniel 11:20 as the "one who shall arise in his (Antiochus III's) place." The "exactor of tribute" whom he sends is Heliodorus, on whom more here and here and links.

The "contemptible person" who follow in the succession (v. 21) is, of course, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the most (in)famous Seleucid figure in the Bible. He is the "little horn" in Daniel chapter 7. His decree outlawing the practice of Judaism led to the Maccabean Revolt in 167-164 B.C.E. Daniel 11:21-39 mostly describe actual events in his reign, but vv. 40-45 are predictions of how his end would come about. We know they are predictions because, like most predictions of the future, they are completely wrong. Those events never happened and Antiochus met his end in Persia, which does not figure at all in them. The Maccabean Revolt is chronicled in much more comprehensible form in the books of 1-2 Maccabees.

I noted Part I of this series here. Also there, see a link for more on the Seleucids. And also see another link there to an earlier series by the same author on the Ptolemaic coins, which covers some of the same history in the current article.

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