Saturday, April 20, 2019

PaleoJudaica is going on hiatus


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

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

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


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

Friday, April 19, 2019

Passover 2019

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

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

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

On Coptic magic, the Golden Bough, and timeless superstition

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

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

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Mark Zvi Brettler reflects on Krister Stendahl

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

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

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Gold coin of Theodosius II found in the Galilee

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

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

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

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

The Holy Stairs uncovered

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

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

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

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Notre Dame cathedral and Jewish history

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

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

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

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

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Another interview with Elaine Pagels

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

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

Background on Why Religion is here.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Philo workshop at WWU Münster

Philo of Alexandria and Philosophical Discourse
Münster, 12 and 13 May 2019

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

Please register until 3 May 2019 with Frau Maria Arnhold

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

13.00–13.15 Welcome and Opening Remarks

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

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

14.15 –14.45 Coffee Break

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

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

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

16.45–17.15 Coffee Break

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

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

19.00 Dinner (Location TBD)

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

Session 3 – Philo and Sceptical Philosophy

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

10.00–10.30 Coffee Break

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

11.30–12.00 Optional: Tour of IJD Library

12.00–14.00 Lunch (location TBD)

Session 4 – Philo’s Philosophy of Language

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

15.00 –15.30 Coffee Break

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

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

18.00 Dinner (for remaining participants)

The workshop is supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

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

Fires last night

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

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

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

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

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

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

New archaeology center at Yokneam

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

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On Judas Iscariot

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

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

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Monday, April 15, 2019

Virtual modeling of an ancient chicken's egg

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

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

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

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Did Shishak create the Northern Kingdom?

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

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

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More dubious "Hebrew" manuscripts seized in Turkey

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

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

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

Preliminary assessment: another fake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

A gendering rite in Leviticus?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Roman-era surgery and plague

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

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The interior of the (?) Tomb of Annas

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

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