Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Top-10s for 2019

RETROSPECTIVE: So far I have found two top-10 lists for 2019 of interest to PaleoJudaica.

From Jesus' Time: The 10 Most Interesting Biblical Discoveries of 2019 (Stephanie Pappas, Live Science).

Biblical Archaeology’s Top 10 Discoveries of 2019 (Gordon Govier, Christianity Today).

There is some overlap in the two lists.

If I get time (I didn't in 2019), I will post a list of top PaleoJudaica posts for the year (or two years) on the blog's anniversary in March.

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

Levine on The Jewish Origins of the Christmas Story

BELATEDLY FOR CHRISTMAS: The Jewish Origins of the Christmas Story (Amy-Jill Levine, TheTorah.com).
The narratives of Jesus’ conception and birth as presented in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke echo Jewish history and cite Jewish prophecy. In that sense, the Christmas story can be said to have Jewish origins.

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

Monday, December 30, 2019

Hanukkah and Saturnalia?

BELATEDLY FOR HANUKKAH: Did Ancient Jews Change Hanukkah to One-Up the Competition? New research into the origins of Hanukkah shows that this joyful holiday developed and evolved alongside other gentile light-based festivals like Saturnalia (Candida Moss, The Daily Beast).
At the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature conference held in San Diego last month, Dr. Catherine Bonesho, an assistant professor in Early Judaism at UCLA, presented a paper on religious competition in the ancient world. In her research, Bonesho examined ancient traditions about Hanukkah preserved in the writings of rabbinic authors in order to see what ancient Jews thought the holiday was about. Bonesho told The Daily Beast that our traditions about Hanukkah started much later than most people know. After Josephus, “the ritual of lighting lamps does not appear in textual form until the Mishnah (200 CE), nor does the tradition of the miracle of oil appear until the Babylonian Talmud (edited between 5th-7th centuries CE),” Bonesho said.
For more Hanukkah-related legends, see the immediately preceding post here.

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Hasmonean essays from TheTorah.com

BELATEDLY FOR HANUKKAH: Channah, Daughter of Mattathias: Instigator of the Maccabean Rebellion (Prof.Rachel Adelman, TheTorah.com).
1 Maccabees recounts how Mattathias instigated a rebellion against the Greeks out of zealotry against Jewish idolatry. Later midrashim tell how Mattathias’ daughter Channah goaded her father and brothers into fighting the Greeks to protect her from being raped by the local governor.
Mariamme, the Last Hasmonean Princess (Dr.Malka Zeiger Simkovich, TheTorah.com).
The Hasmonean princess Mariamme is best known today for her tempestuous and doomed marriage to Herod the Great. During her lifetime, however, Mariamme was a Jewish celebrity in her own right. As a descendant of the Hasmonean family on both her maternal and paternal sides, Mariamme was the closest thing that Jews had to royalty.
For more on that disturbing legend involving Herod, his Hasmonean wife, and honey, see here, here, and here. And a couple of other posts involving the historical Mariamme (Mariamne, Marianne) are here and here.

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

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Vision, Narrative, and Wisdom in the Aramaic Texts from Qumran (Bundvad and Siegismund eds.)

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Vision, Narrative, and Wisdom in the Aramaic Texts from Qumran

Essays from the Copenhagen Symposium, 14-15 August, 2017


Series:
Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah, Volume: 131
Editors: Mette Bundvad and Kasper Siegismund

The Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran have attracted increasing interest in recent years. These texts predate the “sectarian” Dead Sea scrolls, and they are contemporary with the youngest parts of the Hebrew Bible. They offer a unique glimpse into the situation before the biblical canons were closed. Their highly creative Jewish authors reshaped and rewrote biblical traditions to cope with the concerns of their own time. The essays in this volume examine this fascinating ancient literature from a variety of different perspectives. The book grew out of an international symposium held at the University of Copenhagen in August 2017.

Hardback: €99.00/$119.00
E-Book: Open Access

E-Book
Status: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-41373-3
Publication Date: 24 Sep 2019

Hardback
Status: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-41370-2
Publication Date: 26 Nov 2019
I noted the CFP for the Copenhagen Symposium here. Cross-file under Aramaic Watch.

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Friday, December 27, 2019

Geniza Fragments 78

GENIZA FRAGMENTS, the Newsletter of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit, Cambridge University Library has published its October 2019 Issue. Topics include "The Genizah as an untapped source of Geonic responsa" and "The Sisters of Sinai in Jerusalem." For past posts on Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson, the "Sisters of Sinai," start with "The Incredible Lady Bible Hunters" of St Andrews! and follow the links.

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

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Children in the ANE

ANCIENT FAMILY: Children in the ancient Middle East were valued and vulnerable — not unlike children today (Shawn Flynn and Kristine Garroway, The Conversation). But for children today (thank goodness!), the child mortality rate is no longer 50%.

An informative, wide-ranging, popular article. I have noted Professor Garroway's work, including her book, Growing Up in Ancient Israel (SBL Press, 2018), here, here, here, here, and here.

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

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas 2019

MERRY CHRISTMAS to all those celebrating!

This is a good opportunity to mention two New Books of seasonal interest, both from Wiqf and Stock (Cascade Imprint):
The Protevangelium of James
BY Lily C. Vuong

About

The Protevangelium of James tells stories about the life of the Virgin Mary that are absent from the New Testament Gospels: her miraculous birth to Anna and Joachim, her upbringing in the temple, and her marriage at the age of twelve to the aged widower Joseph. The text also adds significant details to the well-known stories of Jesus’ conception, birth, and escape from the slaughter of innocents perpetrated by Herod the Great. Despite its noncanonical status, the Protevangelium of James was extremely influential in churches of the East, and since its publication in the West in the sixteenth-century has captured the imagination of readers all over the world. This study edition presents a fresh, new translation of the text with cross-references, notes, and commentary. The extensive introduction makes accessible the most recent scholarship in studies on Mary in Christian apocrypha, offers new insights into the text’s provenance and relationship to Judaism, and discusses the text’s contributions to art and literature.


The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Nativity of Mary
BY Brandon W. Hawk

About

The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew is one of the most important witnesses in Western Europe to apocryphal stories about the lives of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and Mary’s parents, Anna and Joachim. This apocryphon was also used as the basis for another, the Nativity of Mary, which gained equal popularity. As bestsellers of medieval Christianity, these Latin apocrypha are major witnesses to the explosion of extra-biblical literature in the Western Middle Ages. Despite their apocryphal status, the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Nativity of Mary proved influential throughout the Middle Ages and into the early modern period, as their popularity and influences may be traced in Christian literature, visual arts, liturgy, and theological perspectives still revered by Roman Catholic theologians. These apocrypha also remain significant works for considering the history of monasticism and the cult of the Virgin Mary. This book draws upon a range of manuscript sources to present comprehensive English translations of the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Nativity of Mary with full introductions and commentaries, as well as translations of related works with accompanying commentaries.
Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

For posts of Christmas past, see my 2018 Christmas post and links. A Christmas-related post from the last year is here.

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

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Review of Ameling et al., Corpus inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae. Volume IV

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Walter Ameling, Hannah M. Cotton, Werner Eck, Avner Ecker, Benjamin Isaac, Alla Kushnir-Stein, Haggai Misgav, Jonathan Price, Peter Weiß and Ada Yardeni (ed.), Corpus inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae. Volume IV: Iudaea/Idumaea Part 1, 2649-3978. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2018. Pp. xxvi, 1580 (2 vols.). ISBN 9783110543643/4. $345.98. Reviewed by Benedikt Eckhardt, University of Edinburgh (b.eckhardt@ed.ac.uk).
It will not be necessary to once again sing the praise of the CIIP project as a whole; suffice it to point to the reviews of Volume I, II and III on this platform.1 However, Volume IV, covering Judea proper and Idumea, is exceptional even by CIIP standards: its 1580 pages require two separate books, and add more than 1300 items from 172 locations to the Corpus.

[...]
For more on the Corpus inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae (CIIP), including reviews of earlier volumes, see here and follow the links

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

Monday, December 23, 2019

Biale, Gershom Scholem (in Hebrew)

NEW BOOK FROM MAGNES PRESS:
Gershom Scholem
Master of the Kabbalah


By: David Biale
Translation: Amotz Giladi

Synopsis
David Biale’s Gershom Scholem traces Scholem’s tumultumous life, tying together his scholarly studies with his political activism and cultural criticism. By mining a rich trove of diaries, letters and other writings, Biale shows how Scholem’s inner life must be understood as the necessary background to understanding his most important writings. Far from a dry, ivory-tower scholar, Scholem emerges as a passionately engaged man of his times, whose life encompassed the most significant events of the Jewish twentieth-century: World War I, the rise of Nazism, World War II and the Holocaust, and the creation of the state of Israel.

More details
Publisher: Magnes Press
Year: 2019
Catalog number: 45-531013
ISBN: 978-965-7008-31-7
Pages: 214
Language: Hebrew
Weight: 400 gr.
Cover: Paperback
Series: Bridges
For other recent books and posts on Scholem, the renowned twentieth-century scholar of Kabbalah, see here (cf. here) and links.

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Sunday, December 22, 2019

Hanukkah 2019

HAPPY HANUKKAH (CHANUKKAH, CHANUKAH) to all those celebrating! The eight-day festival begins tonight at sundown.

Last year's Hanukkah post is here. It links to past Hanukkah posts with additional historical background. For PaleoJudaica posts in the last year that relate to Hanukkah, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here (but I'm not sure why).

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

Another review of Moss, Divine Bodies

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Candida R. Moss, Divine Bodies: Resurrecting Perfection in the New Testament and Early Christianity. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019. Pp. 208. ISBN 9780300179767. $45.00. Reviewed by Harry O. Maier, Vancouver School of Theology (hmaier@vst.edu).
... Paul speaks of a glorified resurrected body, she succinctly summarizes, not a glorious one. Following Troels Engberg-Pedersen’s analysis of Stoic influences on Paul’s ideas, Moss agrees that Paul is talking of the (transformed) stuff of what resurrected bodies are made, not their qualities (p. 13). The script risks taking leave of the teachings of the apostle upon which it purports to rest: “Onto Paul’s assertion that the resurrected body will be heavenly, two thousand years of interpreters have mapped their own culturally informed values about bodily perfection” (p. 14). They have largely ignored what the New Testament sometimes does say about Jesus’ resurrected body as touchable, scarred, and perhaps hungry and thirsty. Moss seeks a complicated and non-systematic early Christian view of the resurrected body that attends to the hypothetical nature of early Christian speculation on the topic and its debt to larger currents of its cultural world.
I noted another review of the book here.

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

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Review of Moss, Divine Bodies

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Divine Bodies: Resurrecting Perfection in the New Testament and Early Christianity (Thomas McGlothlin).
Candida R. Moss. Divine Bodies: Resurrecting Perfection in the New Testament and Early Christianity. Yale University Press, 2019.
The conclusion:
This book raises an important question. If, according to Paul, resurrection involves transformation, and that transformation is for the better (at least for Christians), then by what standard—or, better, whose standard—is “better” defined? Moss does not argue that there can be no such standard beyond each individual’s own desires. Rather, she shows that, in the absence of a clear standard, the temptation to substitute culturally-conditioned standards that favor those high on cultural hierarchies, such as the wealthy and the able, is extremely powerful. This is an important caution.

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Friday, December 20, 2019

Ancient Judean Technology

ANCIENT HISTORY ENCYCLOPEDIA: Ancient Judean Technology (William Brown). The article deals with Town Planning & Urbanization, Industry, and Writing.

This is the same William Brown who runs the Biblical Review Blog, to which PaleoJudaica links from time to time.

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

Thursday, December 19, 2019

On the Gospel of Barnabas and Divine fibs

OVER AT THE ANXIOUS BENCH BLOG, Professor Philip Jenkins has returned to the apocryphal Gospel of Barnabas:

Nicodemus and the Secret Scriptures
For more on the Sacromonte lead plates (the fake lead books found in Granada, Spain, in the late sixteenth century), see the comments and links here.

Micaiah and Divine Deception. This post also has an interesting discussion of the awkward throne vision oracle in 1 Kings 22.

The Gospel of Barnabas is a medieval forgery, but for various reasons it has come up here before.

I noted an earlier post by Professor Jenkins on the Gospel of Barnabas here. And for other PaleoJudaica posts on it, see here and links.

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Jost, Communion with Angels in Earthly Worship

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Michael R. Jost. Engelgemeinschaft im irdischen Gottesdienst. Studien zu Texten aus Qumran und dem Neuen Testament. [Communion with Angels in Earthly Worship. Studies on Qumran and New Testament Texts.] 2019. XVI, 454 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 505. 104,00 € including VAT. sewn paper ISBN 978-3-16-156740-7.
Published in German.
The motif of liturgical communion with angels appears in early Jewish and New Testament texts. Michael R. Jost offers the first exegetical analysis of all relevant passages from the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament and places them within traditio-historical developments from the Hebrew Bible to rabbinical and patristic texts. By giving special consideration to the respective performances of liturgical texts, the author reconstructs each groups' experience of angelic communion. In his analysis of the liturgical communion of the yaḥad, Jost presents new insights not only for Qumran researchbut also for New Testament scholarship and the understanding of the early Christian communities and communal liturgies.

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

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Fish sauce and wine production at ancient Ashkelon

CULINARY ARCHAEOLOGY: Ancient Roman culinary preferences revealed in Ashkelon excavation (IAA press release, via Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
Archaeological excavations conducted by the IAA near Ashkelon uncovered an ancient industrial area with winepresses and rarely discovered installations for producing a popular fish sauce, the preparation of which involved strong odors.

​​(Communicated by the IAA Spokesperson)

Vats used to produce fish sauce (garum) that are among the few known in the Eastern Mediterranean, were recently uncovered by the Israel AntiquitiesAuthority in Ashkelon. The excavation, underwritten by the Municipality of Ashkelon and the Ashkelon Economic Co. in preparation for the establishment of the Eco-Sport Park, has revealed evidence of 2000-year old Roman and Byzantine culinary preferences. Youths of the Kibbutz Movement from Kibbutz Yad Mordecai and pupils from the Makif Vav middle school located next to the project participated in the excavation.

[...]

The Roman site was eventually abandoned but the conditions that favored viticulture remained and in the Byzantine period in the 5th c. CE a monastic community began to thrive there, making a living from wine production: three winepresses were built next to an elaborately decorated church. Little of the church has survived but architectural fragments found at the site show that it was decorated with impressive marble and mosaics. A large kiln complex was located nearby that produced wine jars. These appear to have been used for exporting wine, which was the primary income for the monastery.

[...]

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

Cuneiform studies at Leiden University

Cuneiform reveals shared birthplace (Merijn Van Nuland, Leiden University/Phys.org).
However, the future is not always certain, says [Professor of Assyriology Caroline] Waerzeggers when we are back in her office. "A discussion is raging about whether Dutch universities offer too many small degree programs. And Assyriology of all programs is often used as the proverbial example of this. It sometimes seems as though people think we're odd bods or übernerds with no relevance to society. But cuneiform isn't a curio. It was used for longer than the current era."
A nice capsule history of Assyriology at Leiden University.

Every so often I like to link again to my 2010 post Why we need Akkadian (and the humanities!). This is a good excuse to do so. Other relevant posts are here and here.

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

Monday, December 16, 2019

M Adryael Tong on circumcision as "bodily discourse"

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: “Given as a Sign”: Circumcision and Bodily Discourse (M Adryael Tong).
M Adryael Tong. “Given as a Sign”: Circumcision and Bodily Discourse in Late Antique Judaism and Christianity. Ph.D. Dissertation, Fordham University, 2019
The essay opens:
My dissertation argues that understanding circumcision as a bodily discourse, rather than exclusively as a bodily practice, illuminates a surprising number of similarities in early Christian and rabbinic Jewish texts, in addition to their often more obvious differences. Following an examination of circumcision discourse in Hebrew biblical and pre-rabbinic Jewish sources, I focus on three topics—genealogy, gender, and the composition of the body—wherein rabbinic and patristic authors discuss circumcision as a means to explore theological anthropology.

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

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Memorial service for Larry Hurtado

THE MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR LARRY HURTADO took place yesterday afternoon at St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh. Sarah Whittle and I were there, representing St Andrews.

The service was led by Jolyon Mitchell and Paul Foster, both colleagues of Larry at the Divinity School of the University of Edinburgh (New College). The opening reading was by Larry's granddaughter, Karina Hurtado-Cerasoli. There were memorials given by his son, Jesse Hurtado, his daughter, Tiffany Hurtado-Cerasoli, and his New College colleagues, Helen Bond and David Fergusson. His New College colleague Matt Novenson read an excerpt from the Preface to Larry's magnum opus, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (2003).

The music was lovely. A couple of the more ambitious hymns were led by Suzanne Butler, the Director of Music at Larry's church, St James Scottish Episcopal Church in Leith.

The service was well attended. Many of Larry's colleagues and friends came from around Scotland. I saw some from as far away as Durham, Manchester, and Chester. Many others from around the world who could not attend sent in their condolences and good wishes.

It was a moving goodbye to Larry. I think he would have been pleased.


Background here and links.

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Coptic manuscripts, published or with problems

VARIANT READINGS: Recently Emerged Coptic Manuscripts of Dubious Origins: A Working List (Brent Nongbri). The list includes Old Testament, New Testament, Patristic, and documentary texts.

This is a follow-up to Dr. Nongbri's post, The Coptic Material from Oxyrhynchus from November. This list includes Old Testament, New Testament, NT Apocryphal, Classical, other literary, magical, and documentary material.

Cross file under Coptic Watch.

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

A visit to the "real" Bethsaida?

HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: A Visit to the “real” Bethsaida — el-Araj (Carl Rasmussen). As usual, with some nice photos.

I take no position on whether ancient Bethsaida was at the site of el-Araj or et-Tell. But Carl has an opinion. For past PaleoJudaica posts on Bethsaida and both sites, start here and follow the links.

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

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Classical vs. Late Biblical Hebrew

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Biblical Hebrew Phases: A Case Study. (Ronald S. Hendel and Jan Joosten).
The contrast between Classical and Late Biblical Hebrew is best illustrated by juxtaposing two extracts of biblical prose narrative, one from each corpus.
It is a challenge to make this case in a popular essay using very little Hebrew. But I think Hendel and Joosten do a pretty good job.

See here for another brief presentation of their case, which is given fully in their book, How Old Is the Hebrew Bible? A Linguistic, Textual, and Historical Study (Yale University Press, 2018). For more online discussion and reviews, start here and follow the links.

Cross-file under Philology.

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Judean coins in Wacks collection going on auction

NUMISMATICS: Wacks Collection Includes Rare Roman Related Judaean Coins (Goldberg Auctioneers, CoinWeek). The auction takes place in New York on 14-16 January 2020. As always, I hope that the collectors who buy them will make them available to scholars for study. Meanwhile, this article has some photos and descriptions of the coins, which are of interest for the study of ancient Judaism.

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

Friday, December 13, 2019

Burke's SBL diary

OVER AT THE APOCRYPHYCITY BLOG, Tony Burke has published his annual SBL diary in three parts:

2019 SBL Diary: Day One. In all three posts, Tony mostly reports on the Christian Apocrypha sessions. But he also has a paragraph in this post on the Postmortem on the So-called First-Century Mark Fragment session. More on that here.

2019 SBL Diary: Day Two. For more on M. R. James and his ghost stories and his apocrypha, start here (cf. here) and follow the many links.

2019 SBL Diary: Day 3. In which Tony consumes "edibles," because California.

Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch and #AARSBL19.

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

Review of Fredriksen, Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle (Jennifer Quigley).
Paula Fredriksen. Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017
I noted an earlier review of the book here.

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

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Fourth-century church excavated in Aksum

ARCHAEOLOGY: Buried Christian (and Pagan) Basilica Discovered in Ethiopia's 'Lost Kingdom' of Aksum (Tom Metcalfe, Live Science).
"The basilica that we have found is quite important," Harrower said. "There have been other fourth-century basilicas that are known, but most of them were discovered a long time ago and some of them just without a lot of artifacts or information to be had."

In contrast, the early church at Beta Samati holds a trove of ancient artifacts, including early Christian religious artifacts, bronze coins, clay figurines and large pottery amphoras that were used to store either imported wine or olive oil.

"This is telling you that whoever is using this basilica has access to imported luxury trade goods and is quite interconnected into the ancient world and the trade networks," he said.

Some of the ancient bronze coins from the basilica confirmed its age: A coin from the early reign of Aksum's fourth-century King Ezana is decorated with a crescent moon symbolic of the southern Arabian god Almaqah, Harrower said.
Aksum (Axum) has a number of legendary and historical connections with ancient Judaism and early Christianity. I have summarized them here with links. More recent posts on Aksum are here and links.

The following detail in this article caught my eye:
One of the most striking finds is a black stone pendant, decorated with a Christian cross and the motto "venerable" in Ethiopia's ancient Ge'ez script. "This is about the size that you could hang around your neck," he said, "so maybe a priest would have worn this."
The ancient Jewish books of 1 Enoch and Jubilees survive complete only in translations in the ancient Ethiopic language Ge'ez. I do not know Ge'ez, so I can't comment authoritatively. But I do know that a fourth-century inscription in Ge'ez is quite early. The earliest manuscripts in Ge'ez, the Garima Gospels, date from the fourth to seventh centuries. All other manuscripts in Ge'ez come from many centuries later.

This pendant only has one word on it, but it sounds like an exciting discovery.

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Report on the SBL "First Century Mark" Session

VARIANT READINGS: Recap of the SBL “First Century Mark” Session (Brent Nongbri). For background on this rather complicated story and its ramifications, see here and many links. I have not been directly involved with it and I take no position on the various claims and accusations. I keep up with the story for your information. You decide what to make of it.

I am still looking for reports on #AARSBL19 sessions relevant to the interests of PaleoJudaica. If you have written one or found one, please drop me a note.

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Masada essays in the JP

MASADA WATCH: In anticipation of Hanukkah, the Jerusalem Post has published four essays on Masada:

The symbol of Masada. The adoption of Masada as a modern symbol for the State of Israel, however, is controversial because of what Josephus wrote took place there. (Steve Linde). Introductory to the other three.

Masada and Jewish heroism: A new perspective. The most important question is why the Jews at Masada stopped fighting (Moshe Dann). Most of this essay is behind the subscription wall.

The fall of Masada. Two thousand years ago, 967 Jewish men, women and children reportedly chose to take their own lives rather than suffer enslavement or death at the hands of the Roman army (Jodi Magness). For more on Professor Magness's recent book, Masada: From Jewish Revolt to Modern Myth (Princeton University Press, 2019), see here and here. And for many other posts on the history and archaeology of, and revisionist views on, Masada, follow the links at the latter post.

Masada and its scrolls. Masada was first built as a fortress by a Hasmonean priest Jonathan, either the brother of Judah the Maccabee (152–143 BCE) or Alexander Janneus (103–76 BCE) (Lawrence H. Schiffman). Professor Schiffman is a prominent specialist on the Dead Sea Scrolls. I link to his his blog from time to time.

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

Nazoreans (and Nazareth) and Enochic Judaism?

THE RELIGION PROF BLOG: Nazoreans and Enochic Judaism at #AARSBL19. There are many interesting blog posts on the goings on at the AAR/SBL meeting in San Diego last month. This one by James McGrath caught my eye. If I get around to it, maybe I will link to some others.

Cross-file under Mandean (Mandaean) Watch.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Sabar, Veritas

FORTHCOMING BOOK FROM DOUBLEDAY:
Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus's Wife Hardcover – August 11, 2020
by Ariel Sabar (Author)

Kindle
$15.50

Hardcover
$29.95

From National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author Ariel Sabar, the gripping true story of a sensational religious forgery and the scandal that engulfed Harvard.

In 2012, Dr. Karen King, a star professor at Harvard Divinity School, announced a blockbuster discovery at a scholarly conference just steps from the Vatican: She had found an ancient fragment of papyrus in which Jesus calls Mary Magdalene "my wife." The tattered manuscript made international headlines. If early Christians believed Jesus was married, it would upend the 2,000-year history of the world's predominant faith, threatening not just the celibate, all-male priesthood but sacred teachings on marriage, sex and women's leadership. Biblical scholars were in an uproar, but King had impeccable credentials as a world-renowned authority on female figures in the lost Christian texts from Egypt known as the Gnostic gospels. "The Gospel of Jesus's Wife"--as she provocatively titled her discovery--was both a crowning career achievement and powerful proof for her arguments that Christianity from its start embraced alternative, and far more inclusive, voices.

As debates over the manuscript's authenticity raged, award-winning journalist Ariel Sabar set out to investigate a baffling mystery: where did this tiny scrap of papyrus come from? His search for answers is an international detective story--leading from the factory districts of Berlin to the former headquarters of the East German Stasi before winding up in rural Florida, where he discovered an internet pornographer with a prophetess wife, a fascination with the Pharaohs and a tortured relationship with the Catholic Church.

VERITAS is a tale of fierce intellectual rivalries at the highest levels of academia, a piercing psychological portrait of a disillusioned college dropout whose life had reached a breaking point, and a tragedy about a brilliant scholar handed an ancient papyrus that appealed to her greatest hopes for Christianity--but forced a reckoning with fundamental questions about the nature of truth and the line between faith and reason.
Available for pre-order.

I noted Mr. Sabar's important 2016 article in the Atlantic on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife here. And for some follow-up, see here. This book on the same story is coming out in August of next year.

For many, many other posts on the GJW, see here and links. My first post on the subject, back in 2013, is here. And for more on Ariel Sabar's other work, see here and links.

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

Review of Aufrecht, A Corpus of Ammonite Inscriptions (2nd ed.)

THE BIBLICAL REVIEW BLOG: Review: “A Corpus of Ammonite Inscriptions, Second Edition” by Walter E. Aufrecht (William Brown). Cross-file under Northwest Semitic Epigraphy.

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Monday, December 09, 2019

Scroll residue in a Dead Sea jar lid?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Decayed Papyrus Hints that More Dead Sea Scrolls Remain. Analysis of a jar lid from the region suggests it once held one or more scrolls (Jonathan Laden).

A few thoughts.

Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written on parchment (animal skin), not papyrus (crushed reed). A jar containing papyrus documents would be unusual, but entirely possible. A reed mat was also found in Cave 10. Just to be difficult, I wonder if we can rule out the possibility that the jar held another reed mat.

The jar lid is unprovenanced. John Allegro bought it. He concluded that it was from a Qumran cave, but not from one of the eleven that we already knew held scrolls. Could be. But I would keep an open mind about its provenance.

As Professor Taylor says in a comment to the DQCAAS article, this find doesn't necessarily imply that more scrolls remain. Just that some once did, but they are now decayed and gone.

For hope of finding more scrolls (possibly very early ones) see here and links. It seems unlikely. But I am an optimist.

Cross-file under Ancient Material Culture and Techology Watch.

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Babylon now

TWO NEW PHOTO ESSAYS cover current conditions in the ancient city of Babylon:

Inside the Abandoned Babylon That Saddam Hussein Built. “If I could, I would go without shoes here, because it’s a holy place,” says a guide to the ancient site (Pesha Magid, Atlas Obscura)

FIT FOR A TYRANT. Inside abandoned Babylon built by Saddam Hussein who thought he was reincarnation of ancient king Nebuchadnezzar (Nicola Stow, The Sun)

The first story has better text and the second better photos. The second seems to be inspired by the first.

One of the first PaleoJudaica posts, way back in 2003, dealt with some related themes: SADDAM AND NEBUCHADNEZZAR. Unfortunately, none of the links remain active. So much the durability of the Internet. Clay tablets had their virtues. The posts here and here are also relevant.

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Sunday, December 08, 2019

Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day 2019

IT'S THAT DAY AGAIN: Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day. Have fun, but be good.

One of the original announcements, with some instructions, is here. The Twitter hashtag is #PretendToBeATimeTravelerDay.

Past posts on the day and related are here (first post) and here and links.

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Bonesho on foreign holidays in rabbinic literature

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Foreign Holidays and Festivals as Representative of Identity in Rabbinic Literature: a Dissertation Spotlight (Catherine Bonesho).
Catherine Bonesho, “Foreign Holidays and Festivals as Representative of Identity in Rabbinic Literature” (PhD diss., University of Wisconsin, 2018).
Excerpt:
... I argue that rabbinic discussions of foreign holidays show three primary interests. First, interactions with non-Jews on foreign holidays were prohibited because of the prohibition against idolatry. Second, the rabbis allowed for some interactions with non-Jews in order to benefit from involvement in the imperial economy. Thirdly, and most prominently, through tales about the various origins of Roman holidays, the rabbis used holidays to simultaneously index the identities of Self and Other.

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Ancient Jordanian rock art

NABATEAN (NABATAEAN) WATCH: In Jordan’s desert, ancient rock art finds modern defenders (Taylor Luck, Christian Science Monitor).
The carvings of Wadi Rum are as diverse as the history of these rugged sandy crossroads between Arabia, the Mediterranean, and North Africa.

Much of the art and inscriptions are in Thamudic, or Safaitic; the script, of Bedouin tribes who lived in northern Arabia over 3,000 years ago, a presumed precursor to Arabic and Aramaic.

Then came the Nabataeans, who built an empire from their third-century B.C. capital of Petra, and carved pictures and script in their own language that derived from Thamudic.

Cliff walls here also include messages and Koranic verses in Kufic – an early Arabic script. Then there are the primitive petroglyphs, stick men, women, animals and undecipherable symbols that predate all those civilizations by thousands of years.
For more on the ancient North Arabian dialects as well as on the Nabatean language, see here (cf. here) and follow the links.

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Saturday, December 07, 2019

Lars Hartman (1930-2019)

SAD NEWS FROM THE ETC BLOG: RIP Lars Hartman (1930-2019) (Tommy Wasserman). Professor Emeritus Hartman was a Swedish New Testament scholar, but he also wrote a notable book on 1 Enoch: Asking for a Meaning: A Study of 1 Enoch 1-5. CONBNT 12. Lund: Gleer- up, 1979.

Requiescat in pace. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Friday, December 06, 2019

Biblical Studies Carnival 166

BELATEDLY NOTED: Biblical Studies Carnival #166: November 2019 (Theology Pathfider Blog, Derek Demars). Derek invites you to "Take a walk on the weirder side of cultural background studies" with PaleoJudaica. Thanks?

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The Talmud on miscarriages

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Birth Control. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ Talmudic rabbis debate if a miscarriage causes religious impurity and discuss what to do when a woman discharges a fetus that resembles a fish.
When is a fetus not a fetus? That is the question the rabbis pursue, in graphic detail, in Chapter 3 of Tractate Nidda. As we have seen, a woman who has “an issue of her flesh in blood”—that is, a menstrual period—becomes ritually impure for seven days, during which time she can’t have sex with her husband. A woman also becomes ritually impure when she gives birth, for seven days if the child is a boy and 14 days if it’s a girl.

[...]
For more on the tumtum, the person with ambiguous physical gender characteristics, see here and here. Transgender issues are not just a modern concern.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Thursday, December 05, 2019

More Hurtado memorials

MEMORIALS FOR THE LATE LARRY HURTADO continue to come in. I don't have time right now to post all I have found, but here are two important ones from his Doktorvater Professor Emeritus Eldon Jay Epp and his colleague at the the School of Divinity at University of Edinburgh, Professor Helen Bond.

Larry W. Hurtado (29 Dec. 1943–25 Nov. 2019): A Guest Post by Eldon Jay Epp (The ETC Blog)

Professor Larry Hurtado (1943-2019). Founder of the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins (Helen Bond)

Background here and here. My original post on his passing is now the second most consulted post on PaleoJudaica since it began keeping records in 2010.

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Ancient Aramaic in Bahrain?

ARAMAIC WATCH? Experts find first archaeological evidence of Christianity in Bahrain. Experts have found the first archaeological evidence showing Christianity was practised in Bahrain, a discovery which sheds light on a missing part of the country’s history (University of Exeter).
The archaeological remains were found late last month in the village of Samahij, on the northern coast of Muharraq island. Samahij was probably the location of the episcopal seat of Meshmahig mentioned variously in historical sources between 410 and 647, and one of the centres of the country’s pearl trade.

Also found at the site were the remains of wine jars, glass goblets and pottery, which dates from the 7th century. One of the wine jars is inscribed in what is thought to be an Aramaic language called Psalter Pahlavi.

The work was led by Professor Insoll and Dr Rachel MacLean of the University of Exeter and Dr Salman Almahari of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, with additional input from Professor Robert Carter who studied the ceramics found.

The substantial building, measuring 17m x 10m, was probably part of a monastery or large house. The building was likely occupied in the 7th century just before the people converted to Islam. The building has several rooms and was decorated with carved plaster. A cross has been found carved onto a piece of stone and another cross was found painted on a pot sherd.

It is likely that the Christians who used the building were part of the Nestorian Church which flourished in the Gulf between the 4th/5th and 7th centuries.
My emphasis. I am confused by this report. Pahlavi is Middle Persian (an Indo-European language), not Aramaic (a Semitic language). Psalter Pahlavi is a Pahlavi script named after the script in the Pahlavi Psalter. It is connected with the Nestorians, but it is not itself Aramaic or Syriac. If anyone knows more about this jar inscription from Samahij, please drop me a note.

For more on ancient Aramaic inscriptions found in the pre-Islamic Arabic-speaking world, start here and follow the links. This is the first I've heard of an Aramaic inscription — if that's what it is — being discovered in Bahrain. But there were Nestorians there, so I would not be surprised to see evidence for the use of Syriac.

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Buyoung Son, The Subversive Chronicler

NEW BOOK FROM SHEFFIELD PHOENIX PRESS:
The Subversive Chronicler
Narrative Film Theory and Canon Criticism Refocus his Intention

Buyoung Son

In 1 and 2 Chronicles, commentators have long noted a pattern of retributive justice whereby kings who comply with Yahweh’s will are rewarded with long life and honourable burial, whereas those who do not are disgraced. However, another pattern significantly emerges from a group of kings whose careers display an unexpected reversal. No convincing consensus has yet emerged to explain this reversal pattern.

By exploring and adopting the insights of narrative film theory, particularly of cognitive film semiotics, into the effects of macro-repetition, Son uncovers the implications of these unexpected reversals. As the reversal pattern is interwoven with the retributive pattern, the narrative emerges as a falsifying narration, provoking a deep scepticism about the conventional view of retribution theology.

Deleuzian film theory offers a crucial insight into how this falsifying narration works. The reversal pattern has a destabilizing effect, which suggests that the Chronicler’s theological outlook is more nuanced than that of Samuel–Kings, or perhaps even frankly subversive of it. From a canonical perspective, furthermore, the presence of the Chronicler’s work in the Ketuvim points to its potential function as a subtle theological readjustment in the postexilic Jewish community.

The Subversive Chronicler is then a challenge to the Chronicler’s theology as it is commonly understood and also as a refocusing of its difference from the historiography of Samuel–Kings.

Buyoung Son is Senior Pastor at Chowol Sungshin Church and Instructor of Bible News Institute, South Korea.

Series: Hebrew Bible Monographs, 83
978-1-910928-59-2 hardback
Publication November 2019

viii + 248 pp.

£27.50 / $37.50 / €32.50
Scholar's Price

£55 / $75 / €65
List Price
Hardback

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Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Ancient synagogue mosaics found in the Golan

DECORATIVE ART: Rare 3rd century Golan synagogue mosaics show shift in Jewish life post-Temple. Colorful decorations in Roman-era synagogue record transition from study hall to public ‘mini-Temple’ prayer hall (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
Colorful remains of mosaics from a 3rd century synagogue in the ancient town of Majdulia are the earliest evidence of synagogue decoration in the Golan, according to a University of Haifa press release on Monday.

[...]
The mosaics are very fragmentary, but important.

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Nebuchadnezzar explained

THE WORLD IS FULL OF HISTORY: Nebuchadnezzar explained: warrior king, rebuilder of cities, and musical muse (Louise Pryke, The Conversation). King Nebuchadnezzar is most famous not for any of these things, but because the Bible tells of his destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and his exiling of the Judeans to Babylon. And, as this essay notes, he is in the news now because of Kanye West's new opera about him. The essay is a good, brief overview of what we know about him.

Many past PaleoJudaica posts involve Nebuchadnezzar. Some of them are here, here, here, here, and links.

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Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Why did no one come back for those books?

AN ANCIENT MYSTERY: Scrolls, Lost Gospels, And Why Nobody Came Back To Get Them (Philip Jenkins, The Anxious Bench). I agree with Professor Jenkins. If we find ancient hidden treasure, something bad happened to the original owners.

A thought: Josephus comments that the Romans could not break the Essenes with torture (J.W. 8.152-53). He says they inflicted it to make them curse their lawgiver or eat forbidden food. But the Romans were practical people. I wonder if those interrogations also involved more practical matters.

Cross file under the Copper Scroll?

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Monday, December 02, 2019

Review of Barton, Ethics in Ancient Israel

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Ethics in Ancient Israel (James Nati).
John Barton, Ethics in Ancient Israel. New York: Oxford, 2014. pp. xii + 317. ISBN 978-0-19-878517-0.
Excerpt:
Barton’s work is thus meant not at offering clarity for believers as they try to live more “biblically,” but rather to argue that ancient Israelite thinkers deserve a seat at the table among other ethical thinkers throughout history.

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The Gospel of Thomas

NEW TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA WATCH: What is Gospel of Thomas - missing Bible chapter changes EVERYTHING known about Jesus (Tom Fish, The Express). This article being in The Express did not fill me with high expectations. And the headline did nothing to raise them. But when I read the article itself, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was well researched and well presented for the target audience.

I have called out The Express for poor coverage in the past, so I want to give them credit this time for doing a creditable job. But next time I hope they exercise more restraint with the headline.

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

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Zedekiah's Cave meets Aladdin's

CULINARY SPELUNCULAR LEGEND MASHUP: Open Sesame: Jerusalem cave hosts Aladdin-themed feast. Open Restaurants festival welcomes renowned Turkish chef as Jerusalem looks to food for tourism boost (MAYA MARGIT/THE MEDIA LINE, Jerusalem Post).
On a cold November night, dozens of visitors slowly file into an opening in the ancient stone walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.

Walking down candlelit steps with wine glasses in their hands, they make their way through a large cavern as performance artists dance nearby and light projections illuminate the walls. Yet there are no magic lamps or genies inside this legendary space known as Zedekiah’s Cave; rather, the treasure these visitors seek is of the gastronomic variety.

[...]
Sounds like a fun party. For past posts on Zedekiah's Cave and the cycle of legends around it, see here and links.

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Saturday, November 30, 2019

Mani exhibition at the Chester Beatty Library

THE NSEA BLOG: THE MYSTERY OF MANI. The Symposium on Manichaeism in Egypt is now past, but the Mani exhibition is still on into January 2020. And if you can't make it to Dublin, there is a full 3-d version only.

Cross-file unde Manichean (Manichaean) Watch. Some past posts on the Chester Beatty Library are here and here and links.

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Chalmers on The Samaritan Other

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: The Samaritan Other: Representation, History, and Lost Late Ancient Difference (Matthew Chalmers).
Matthew Chalmers, Representations of Samaritans in Late Antique Jewish and Christian Texts (University of Pennsylvania PhD Dissertation, 2019)

... My dissertation asked how representation of Samaritans in late antique Jewish and Christian texts can restructure the ways we approach religious identity and difference. ...

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Friday, November 29, 2019

Hurtado memorials

MEMORIALS FOR THE LATE LARRY HURTADO are coming in. These are the ones I have seen which are linkable to. There are many more on Facebook.

THE ETC BLOG: RIP Larry W. Hurtado (1943–2019) (Tommy Wasserman).

CHRISTIANITY TODAY: Remembering Larry Hurtado, Leading Researcher of Early Christian Worship. The Edinburgh New Testament professor modeled faithful scholarship with his work on historic devotion to Jesus (HOLLY J. CAREY).

THE BIBLE AND CULTURE BLOG: Old Friends Here…. and Hereafter (BEN WITHERINGTON).

Background here.

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Review of Warren, Food and Transformation in Ancient Mediterranean Literature

REVIEWS OF THE ENOCH SEMINAR:
R. Rodríguez Reviews Food and Transformation in Ancient Mediterranean Literature (M. Warren)

Reviews of the Enoch Seminar 2019.11.10

Meredith J. C. Warren, Food and Transformation in Ancient Mediterranean Literature. Writings from the Greco-Roman World Supplement Series 14. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2019. ISBN: 9781628372380. Pp. xv + 189. $29.95. Paperback.

Rafael Rodríguez
Johnson University
Excerpt:
Warren’s discussion of the half-dozen examples of hierophagy (as well as references to additional potential instances or relevant comparanda) is fascinating, well-written, and engaging. She intentionally brings together literary phenomena that transcend ideological/religious boundaries (Jew, Christian, Graeco-Roman) in order to situate her proposal within a broader ancient Mediterranean worldview. With references to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the Wachowski Brothers’s The Matrix, among others, she also proposes hierophagy as a significant research agenda across time as well as space. In every instance, her analyses are stimulating and suggestive for other narrative and textual moments.
But the reviewer is skeptical that she has demonstrated the existence of an ancient genre of hierophagy.

For more on the book, see here.

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Thursday, November 28, 2019

On Porat, Justice for the Poor

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Justice for The Poor (Benjamin Porat).
Justice for the Poor: The Principles of Welfare Regulations from Biblical Law to Rabbinic Literature
צדק דלים: עקרונות דיני הרווחה מן התורה לספרות חז״ל
Nevo Publishing; Sacher Institute; Israeli Democracy Institute, 2019. [hebrew]
Excerpt:
This book is devoted to an examination of the theoretical conceptions that emerge from the welfare laws in the Bible and from the laws of charity that developed later in the rabbinic literature, i.e., by the mishnaic and talmudic Sages. The book reveals the underlying theoretical currents giving rise to these conceptions and those that arose in their wake.
Cross-file under New Book.

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Rickett, Separating Abram and Lot

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Separating Abram and Lot

The Narrative Role and Early Reception of Genesis 13


Series: Themes in Biblical Narrative, Volume: 26

€149.00/
$179.00

Author: Dan Rickett

In Separating Abram and Lot: The Narrative Role and Early Reception of Genesis 13, Dan Rickett presents a fresh analysis of two of Genesis’ most important characters. Many have understood Lot as Abram’s potential heir and as an ethical contrast to him. Here, Rickett explores whether these readings best reflect the focus of the story. In particular, he considers the origin of these readings and how a study of the early Jewish and Christian reception of Genesis 13 might help identify that origin. In turn, due attention is given to the overall purpose of Genesis 13, as well as how Lot and his function in the text should be understood.

E-Book
Status: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-41388-7
Publication Date: 01 Oct 2019
Hardback
Status: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-39989-1
Publication Date: 10 Oct 2019

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Thanksgiving 2019

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to my American readers and to anyone else who is celebrating!

This is a working day in the U.K., so I am in my office as usual. But thankful nonetheless. Have a great day!

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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Yahalom, Sources of the Sacred Song

NEW BOOK FROM MAGNES PRESS (IN HEBREW):
Sources of the Sacred Song
Crossroads in Jewish Liturgical Poetry


By: Joseph Yahalom

Publisher: Magnes Press
Year: 2019
Catalog number: 45-541011
ISBN: 978-965-7008-41-6
Pages: 300
Language: Hebrew
Weight: 600 gr.
Cover: Paperback

Print $30
eBook for Magnes App $21

Synopsis

The book is concerned with the main trends in Jewish Liturgy during Late Antiquity and its connections and inter relations with Aramaic Targum, Midrash, mysticism, popular beliefs, structure and rhyme patterns as performed amid Late Antique Synagogues in Palestine, as well as the later spread of these fertile products to Southern Italy and then to the rest of Europe. The book discusses the different layers of poets and performers as presented in ancient manuscripts which were preserved in the Cairo Geniza collections and later in European Mahzorim, and the fascinating struggle of survival of the different liturgical cycles.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Larry Hurtado - 1943-2019

SAD NEWS: Social media is alight with notices of the death of Professor Larry Hurtado yesterday. Larry was Professor of New Testament Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh. He was a major figure in New Testament studies and is especially known for his work on the earliest Christology. Regular readers of PaleoJudaica will be familiar with his blog, which I have cited often. He continued to update it through his final illness. The last post was on 17 November. His Wikipedia entry is here.

I first met Larry in 1991 at the founding of the Divine Mediator Figures Group in the Society of Biblical Literature. We both continued to be active in the Group throughout its existence. He was a founding member of the Early High Christology Club (on which more here, here, and here - I still have the mug!). He moved to Scotland in 1996, the year after I came to St. Andrews. He was a keynote speaker at the International Conference on the Historical Origins of the Worship of Jesus, which was held at the Divinity School of the University of St. Andrews in 1998. He retired from the University of Edinburgh in 2011, but remained active in the field throughout his life.

Larry's contribution was vast. We are all very sad to have to say goodbye to him. Requiescat in pace.

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Review of Ben-Eliyahu, Identity and Territory

H-JUDAIC REVIEW:
Ames on Ben-Eliyahu, 'Identity and Territory: Jewish Perceptions of Space in Antiquity'

Author: Eyal Ben-Eliyahu
Reviewer: Tracy Ames

Eyal Ben-Eliyahu. Identity and Territory: Jewish Perceptions of Space in Antiquity. Oakland: University of California Press, 2019. 216 pp. $95.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-520-29360-1.

This volume examines changing ideas related to perceived territorial boundaries and ethno-national identity as reflected in Jewish literature from the Second Temple period to the Roman Byzantine period. Through close readings of biblical, Second Temple, and rabbinic literature, the book focuses on the reciprocal relationship between fluctuating notions of geographic borders and differing views of identity in postbiblical Jewish society. Eyal Ben-Eliyahu presents a pioneering approach to the literary sources he investigates with the application of the spatial theory of history, widely employed in the humanities and social sciences. The central arguments of the book are that identity influences territorial perceptions and that territory, itself, is one of the factors involved in shaping identity. In addition, the treatment of ancient sources related to deliberations about perceptions of status, scope, and the nature of territory among different groups demonstrates that these issues continue to be part of internal and external dialogue about the status of the territory of Israel.

[...]
The review mentions that this book includes material from an earlier book by Ben-Eliyahu: Between Borders: The Boundaries of the Land of Israel in the Consciousness of the People of the Second Temple and the Roman-Byzantine Periods. For a review of it, see here.

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Monday, November 25, 2019

Review of Noam, Shifting Images of the Hasmoneans

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Shifting Images of the Hasmoneans (Daniel Picus).
Vered Noam, Shifting Images of the Hasmoneans: Second Temple Legends and Their Reception in Josephus and Rabbinic Literature, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Parallels between rabbinic literature and the writings of Josephus are a problem: how would the rabbis have known Josephus? On the one hand, we can assume that the rabbis knew Josephus in some form. Either they knew Greek and/or there was an Aramaic Josephus (a claim Josephus himself makes in Jewish War I, 3). Our other possibility is that the shared traditions come from a common storehouse, or “repository” of stories, traditions, and narratives: in its suggestion of an unknown source, this option bears a close resemblance to the famous “Q” document of New Testament criticism.[1] Where it differs is in the lack of an actual reconstruction of this putative text.

[...]

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Sunday, November 24, 2019

Awabdy, Leviticus

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Leviticus

A Commentary on Leueitikon in Codex Vaticanus


Series: Septuagint Commentary Series

€154.00/
$185.00

Author: Mark Awabdy

In Leviticus Awabdy offers the first commentary on the Greek version of Leviticus according to Codex Vaticanus (4th century CE), which binds the Old and New Testaments into a single volume as Christian scripture. Distinct from other LXX Leviticus commentaries that employ a critical edition and focus on translation technique, Greco-Roman context and reception, this study interprets a single Greek manuscript on its own terms in solidarity with its early Byzantine users unversed in Hebrew. With a formal-equivalence English translation of a new, uncorrected edition, Awabdy illuminates Leueitikon in B as an aesthetic composition that not only exhibits inherited Hebraic syntax and Koine lexical forms, but its own structure and theology, paragraph (outdented) divisions, syntax and pragmatics, intertextuality, solecisms and textual variants.

E-Book
Status: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-40983-5
Publication Date: 01 Oct 2019
Hardback
Status: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-40552-3
Publication Date: 10 Oct 2019

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Saturday, November 23, 2019

My review of Stone, Secret Groups in Ancient Judaism

TODAY AT THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE SOCIETY OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE IN SAN DIEGO, CA.:
Mysticism, Esotericism, and Gnosticism in Antiquity
11/25/2019
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room:
Sapphire 400B (Fourth Level) - Hilton Bayfront
Theme: Esoteric Religious Groups in Antiquity
Joint session with the AAR Traditions of Eastern Late Antiquity.

April DeConick, Rice University, Presiding

Book Review: Michael Stone, Secret Groups in Ancient Judaism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017)
Kelley Coblentz Bautch, St. Edward's University, Panelist (10 min)

James Davila, University of St. Andrews, Panelist (10 min)

Written Reflections from Michael Stone
Discussion (15 min)
In the event, neither Professor Stone nor I are able to make it to San Diego this year. Our contributions have been read in absentia. The session has just ended. As promised, I am now happy to share my review with you, my readers. Past PaleoJudaica posts on the book are here and links.
Michael Stone’s book, Secret Groups in Ancient Judaism (OUP, 2018), takes the study of religious groups in Judaism of the Second Temple era in a new and fruitful direction. Based on the anthropological study of secret societies, the book develops the insight that the foundational concept in such groups is that there is knowledge that must be kept hidden. This leads them to create organizations with a pyramidal hierarchy, each level of which controls a larger group of followers. With this understanding in mind, Stone finds that secret groups leave a social-structural “footprint” that points to their existence. This book sets out to follow the trail left by secret societies in the ancient Jewish world. Time constraints preclude a full survey of the book’s arguments and conclusions. I will limit myself to noting some points of special interest and some directions for further research.

The showpiece for an ancient Jewish secret society is the Qumran covenanters, who Stone, following the scholarly consensus, identifies more or less with the Essenes. The Therapeutae are another likely example. These are the two decisively identified such societies, but there are many other possible cases. Notably, there are hints at secret knowledge and the existence of secret organizations in the ancient Jewish apocalypses, which Stone regards as themselves probably exoteric literature.

Stone notes that the theological terminology found in the Qumran sectarian texts does not appear in antiquity or later (with the possible exception of Karaite literature) in other Jewish texts. The implication is that the Qumran covenanters were a secret group. They kept their secrets and we only have them now due to an extraordinary chance discovery. The use of cryptic scripts in some Qumran sectarian texts likewise implies that the sectarians reserved some knowledge to be revealed in graded stages. One of these texts is an address by the Maskil, the “Sage” — the apparent leader of the group, to some of his followers.

Stone tentatively reconstructs at least three or four graded ranks in the hierarchy of the Qumran community. The fundamental division was between the community and the rest of Israel. Within that community were gradations, notably between those who had full access to the pure food of the group and those who were transitioning toward such access. Above such gradations there may have been a leadership group, the council of the community, which consisted of three priests and twelve laymen. And over them all was the Maskil.

Alas, no ancient literature of the Therapeutae has come down to us! We have only the brief account of them by Philo of Alexandria. They are similar in many ways to the Essenes, but they included women in the group. They had secret books that used allegorical exegesis. They had dream revelations. And the group had a hierarchy that ranked a member according to his or her admission seniority to the group. In Stone’s judgment, both the Qumran covenanters/Essenes and the Therapeutae were secret societies.

The ancient Jewish apocalypses may also provide us with information about ancient Jewish secret societies. But Stone takes the evidence in them to be of an indirect nature. The apocalypses do claim to reveal esoteric knowledge. It is possibly that the original authors intended them as esoteric works, but they seem to have circulated fairly widely. Stone argues that they are "pseudo-esoteric" literature and that their explicit teachings were never intended to be secret.

Nevertheless, some of the revelations mentioned in the apocalypses are not part of their content. These may well be references to actual secret teachings that were found in esoteric documents (or perhaps oral traditions) which no longer survive. A prominent example is the lists of revealed things in the apocalypses, which notably refer to cosmological and cosmic secrets that contained temporal and eschatological elements. It is unclear whether or not some of these were also of a salvific nature. Another intriguing example is the reference in 4 Ezra 14 to the seventy esoteric books to which only the wise should have access. And then the story of the watchers involves angels instructing humans and their own giant offspring in culture-hero teachings and unspecified divinatory and magical techniques.

There is evidence in the apocalypses for groups with the tripartite social structure that is typical of secret societies. At the top is a single seer (Ezra in 4 Ezra, Baruch in 2 Baruch, Isaiah in the Ascension of Isaiah). Below the seer is an inner circle: the wise who receive the esoteric books from Ezra; Baruch’s core group of five followers whom he teaches in private; and Isaiah’s inner circle who witness his visionary trance. Below the inner circle are the people, followers who do not have access to the secret teachings. They receive only the exoteric books from Ezra; Baruch addresses them only in public; and they are sent away from Isaiah’s visionary séance. This hierarchical structure is also reminiscent of the structure of the Qumran community.

Stone argues that these apocalypses also function as “authentication machinery.” They give us indirect evidence of actual practices and such in Jewish secret societies. Notable is the reference in the Testament of Moses to the hiding of the teachings of Moses in a scroll jar, an obvious parallel to the scroll jars found at Qumran. And the Similitudes of Enoch, the Book of the Luminaries, and the Book of Daniel present their pseudo-esoteric teachings as sealed away and only to be unsealed to future generations.

I have learned a lot from this book. It has helped me to look at the ancient evidence in new ways. The analysis of the texts in terms of the structure and worldview of secret societies provides a valuable new filter for understanding aspects of ancient Judaism.

The book is also agenda setting. In addition to the points of special interest that I have noted above, Stone has assembled a great many leads in the ancient texts that may produce additional information on secret societies in ancient Judaism and later. He has also flagged a vast amount of both primary and secondary literature that may be relevant to the subject. His primary sources range from Mesopotamian cuneiform literature, to literary and archaeological sources for the Mystery Religions, to rabbinic and extra-rabbinic traditions.

I close by pointing to some of the leads noted in the book that may produce fruitful future research on secret groups in ancient and later Judaism.
  • Magicians and exorcists have left behind written spells and practical manuals for their crafts. To what degree did their transmission of their trade secrets amount to membership in secret societies?
  • Were the teachings of the watchers alluded to in the Enochic literature entirely imaginary, or does their mention testify to an underground magical and divinatory tradition with ancient real practitioners?
  • We might infer from first principles that the priesthood of the Jerusalem Temple had its own body of secret teachings relating to service in the Temple. Have any of these survived? The rabbinic sources claim to transmit some of this material. Likewise, Aramaic Levi claims to give regulations for sacrificial rites undertaken by its Levitical priesthood. Is it possible to reconstruct some of the teachings and social structures of the ancient Jewish priesthood?
  • I have already mentioned that some of the sectarian terminology and ideas found in the Qumran scrolls also appear in the medieval Karaite literature. Are these similarities due to chance finds of scrolls in the Qumran caves, whose ideas were adopted by the Karaites? This seems plausible. But is it also possible that some sectarian ideas survived in post-destruction secret societies and only resurfaced in our Karaite sources?
  • Considerable Hebrew and Aramaic literature survives from the rabbinic period outside the rabbinic canon. These include astrological, magical, medical, and liturgical materials. In many cases, elements of these may point in the direction of their being secret knowledge. These await clarification.
In sum, Michael Stone’s book, Secret Groups in Ancient Judaism, is an important contribution to our understanding of groups in antiquity who valued, hoarded, and transmitted esoteric knowledge.

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Images of the goddess at Elephantine?

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: Judeans and Goddesses at Elephantine (Collin Cornell).
What scholarly investigations of the goddess have not examined are non-textual data from Elephantine. The same excavations that found Aramaic papyri also uncovered a number of figurines. Some of them, hewn rather roughly from wood, picture a grotesque dwarf-god. Others made by placing clay into a mold feature a naked woman lying on a bed. One of these clay objects, a plaque, shows a naked woman standing between two pillars, with a smaller child by her side.
Cross-file under Aramaic Watch and Decorative Art.

For many past PaleoJudaica posts on Elephantine Island in Egypt and on the Elephantine Aramaic papyri, start here (cf. here and here) and follow the links.

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

Friday, November 22, 2019

Symposium on the Deir el-Surian Monastery's manuscripts

COPTIC WATCH: Levantine Foundation to hold a symposium in Cairo on Deir al-Serian's manuscripts (Ahram Online).
The symposium is to highlight the successful fieldwork to date and to conserve ancient manuscripts up to 1500 years old with the support of the British council's cultural protection fund
The symposium is on 3 December this year.

For past posts on the important manuscript collection of the Deir el-Surian Monastery, see here and links. And more on the monastery and other Coptic monasteries in the Wadi El-Natroun area, see here and links. Cross file under Syriac Watch and Ethiopic Watch.

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The Talmud on male sexual emissions

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Emission Standards. This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study explores the origins of sexual puritanism in the faith: why Jewish men can’t touch themselves even while urinating, how erections lead to idol worship, and how masturbation delays the arrival of the Messiah.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Update on the Inscriptions in Israel/Palestine Project

MICHAEL SATLOW: Inscriptions and FAIR Archiving. Professor Satlow tells us the latest about the Inscriptions in Israel/Palestine Project and its digital archiving.

I mentioned the project a decade ago here. Incidentally, it is not to be confused with the Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palestine (CIIP). That is a different project. More on it here and here and links.

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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Allison, 4 Baruch

NEW BOOK FROM DE GRUYTER:
Allison, Jr., Dale C.

4 Baruch
Paraleipomena Jeremiou


Series:
Commentaries on Early Jewish Literature

89,95 € / $103.99 / £82.00*

Hardcover
Publication Date:
October 2019
ISBN 978-3-11-026973-4

Aims and Scope
This is the first full-scale, verse-by-verse commentary on 4 Baruch. The pseudepigraphon, written in the second century, is in large measure an attempt to address the situation following the destruction of the temple in 70 CE by recounting legends about the first destruction of the temple, the Babylonian captivity, and the return from exile. 4 Bruch is notable for its tale about Jeremiah's companion, Abimelech, who sleeps through the entire exilic period. This tale lies behind the famous Christian legend of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus and is part of the genealogy of Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle." Allison's commentary draws upon an exceptionally broad range of ancient sources in an attempt to clarify 4 Baruch's original setting, compositional history, and meaning.
Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Orlov, The Glory of the Invisible God

FORTHCOMING BOOK FROM BLOOMSBURY/T&T CLARK:
The Glory of the Invisible God
Two Powers in Heaven Traditions and Early Christology


By: Andrei Orlov

Published: 12-26-2019
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 240
ISBN: 9780567692238
Imprint: T&T Clark
Series: Jewish and Christian Texts
Volume: 31
Dimensions: 6 1/8" x 9 1/4"
List price: $120.00
Online price: $108.00

About The Glory of the Invisible God
Andrei Orlov examines early Christological developments in the light of rabbinic references to the “two powers” in heaven, tracing the impact of this concept through both canonical and non-canonical material.

Orlov begins by looking at imagery of the “two powers” in early Jewish literature, in particular the book of Daniel, and in pseudepigraphical writings. He then traces the concept through rabbinic literature and applies this directly to understanding of Christological debates. Orlov finally carries out a close examination of the “two powers” traditions in Christian literature, in particular accounts of the Transfiguration and the Baptism of Jesus. Including a comprehensive bibliography listing texts and translations, and secondary literature, this volume is a key resource in researching the development of Christology.
The advert lists it as forthcoming in December. But the author tells me that it will be on sale at the Bloomsbury booth at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, which begins this weekend. Go and check it out for yourselves.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A statue of Moloch at the Colosseum?

PUNIC WATCH? Statue of ancient god of child sacrifice put on display in Rome (LifeSiteNews).
The presence of the idol raised particular concern among Catholics, as it was erected nine days before the Amazon Synod and the subsequent scandal over the veneration of the Pachamama idol at the Vatican.

The statue of Moloch, worshipped by both the Canaanites and the Phoenicians, is part of an exhibit dedicated to Ancient Rome’s once-great rival, the city of Carthage. The large-scale exhibition, titled Carthago: The immortal myth, runs until March 29, 2020.
I noted the exhibition here. I leave the debate about the statue to others. But I'll mention a few points of historical interest.

First, it is not clear that there was a Canaanite deity named "Moloch" ("Molech") to whom children were sacrificed. A contrary interpretation of the biblical references and the cognate Punic epigraphic evidence takes the word to be the name of a kind of sacrifice. The Canaanite root MLK has to do with royalty, so perhaps a "royal" sacrifice? But some scholars think there was such a god. John Day argued that case in a book, reviewed here.

Second, unfortunately, even if there wasn't a god named Molech, it sure looks as though the ancient Carthaginians sacrificed children. And the Bible says pretty clearly that some Israelites did too. But there is some debate about the Carthaginian evidence. For past posts on the subject of ancient child sacrifice, see here and here and links.

Third, remember, we don't even know if there really was a god named Molech. So it's not surprising that the controversial statue isn't even a real ancient idol. It's a reconstruction of a prop from a 1914 movie.
"A reconstruction of the terrible deity Moloch, linked to Phoenician and Carthaginian religions and featured in the 1914 film Cabiria (directed by Giovanni Pastore and written by Gabriele D’Annunzio) will be stationed at the entrance to the Colosseum to welcome visitors to the exhibition," stated a press release about the exhibit.
It doesn't look ancient to me. It looks like something from a Lovecraft story.

The article includes a clip from the movie which depicts child sacrifices. The setting isn't very authentic, but it certainly captures the horror of the rite.

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