Saturday, July 06, 2019

Mapfeka, Esther in Diaspora

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


Series:
Biblical Interpretation Series, Volume: 178

Author: Tsaurayi Kudakwashe Mapfeka

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

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

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Friday, July 05, 2019

More on the Huqoq mosaics

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

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

[...]

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

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The Talmud on valuation of a human life

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

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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The Philistines were Europeans?

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

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

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A Phoenician Snail Dye Factory in Israel

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

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

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Thursday, July 04, 2019

Independence Day 2019

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY to my American readers!


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The Christian Century on Alter's Bible translation

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

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

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Wednesday, July 03, 2019

More Bible-themed mosaics from Huqoq

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

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

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Herod the Gardener?

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

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

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

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

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Shingal, the Yazidis, ancient Judaism, etc.

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

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

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

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Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Samson the Demigod?

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

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Early review of Scholem's "Jewish Gnosticism"

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

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

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


Series:
Studia Semitica Neerlandica, Volume: 71

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

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

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

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

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New members elected to Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities

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

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

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

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Monday, July 01, 2019

Opening of Pilgrim's Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A secret sale of biblical Oxyrhynchus fragments?

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

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

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

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

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Forum on Boyarin’s "Judaism"

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

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

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

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The amazing migrating word

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

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Sunday, June 30, 2019

On repatriating antiquities

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

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

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

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

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