Saturday, July 27, 2019

On Aaron's flowering staff

TWO ESSAYS AT THETORAH.COM give different perspectives on the background and meaning of Aaron's flowering staff in Numbers 17:16-26.

Dr. Raanan Eichler thinks the Zadokite priests may have approved of Asherah poles:

Aaron’s Flowering Staff: A Priestly Asherah?
The story of Aaron’s staff reads like an etiological tale, explaining a holy object in the Temple. The description of the object as a stylized tree suggests a connection with the asherah, a ritual object forbidden by Deuteronomy.
Dr. Rabbi David Frankel thinks that the Zadokites may have appropriated a tradition about the election of the tribe of Levi:

The Flowering Staff: Proof of Aaron’s or the Levites’ Election?
The story of the flowering staff in its current form and context, confirms YHWH’s previous designation of the Aaronides as priests. Originally, however, the story presented YHWH’s selection of the tribe of Levi as his priestly caste.
I blog, you decide.

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Friday, July 26, 2019

Dodgy Greek at Hippos-Sussita

GREEK EPIGRAPHY: 6th-century inscriptions near Galilee may show Christians’ fading Greek literacy. So far, ‘Burnt Church’ site at ongoing Hippos-Sussita Excavations Project has revealed three texts — all of which were misspelled and had grammar errors, say archaeologists (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
This summer, the settlement’s South-West or Burnt Church was revisited by archaeologists in search of firm dating for the conflagration that both destroyed and preserved the church. They revealed a plethora of interesting artifacts and mosaics — and a nearly illiterate artisan, who had been tasked with inscribing the names of donors and abbots for posterity. Instead, his grammar and spelling mistakes are preserved in a trio of ancient Greek mosaics. (Where is autocorrect when you need it?)
The inscriptions are still being deciphered and I can find nothing more about their content.

The site of Hippos-Sussita has produced many exciting artifacts and architectural finds. Most recently, there was media attention about ancient stonemasons' marks found there. For additional past posts, start here and follow the links.

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Knoppers, Judah and Samaria in Postmonarchic Times

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Gary N. Knoppers. Judah and Samaria in Postmonarchic Times. Essays on Their Histories and Literatures. 2019. XI, 333 pages. Forschungen zum Alten Testament 129. 129,00 € including VAT cloth. ISBN 978-3-16-156804-6.
Published in English.
Focusing on Judean-Samarian interactions in Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman times, Gary N. Knoppers explores both commonalities and differences, rivalries and relationships, as these communities engaged one another in greater depth and complexity than scholars have previously thought. Some essays elucidate archaeological and epigraphic discoveries (Jerusalem, Mt. Gerizim excavations and inscriptions), while others illumine Jewish (Ezra, Chronicles, Josephus, Pseudo-Philo) and Samaritan (Samaritan 10th commandment, the Chronicon Samaritanum) literary texts. How Judeans and Samarians responded to competing claims to Israel's past by reinterpreting shared scriptures is a unifying theme in these eleven studies.
For more on the late Professor Knoppers and his work, see here, here, here, and here.

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Thursday, July 25, 2019

A Lilith musical

CONTEMPORARY ART: Review: ‘Leaving Eden’ in the New York Musical Festival (Deb Miller, DC Metro).
Jenny Waxman (book and lyrics) and Ben Page (music, with additional music by Ada Westfall) consider the myth of Lilith, the Creation of Adam and Eve, and the present-day male-female and female-female dynamics from a post-modern feminist perspective in Leaving Eden – a pop-style musical playing at the Pershing Square Signature Center in this year’s New York Musical Festival (NYMF). Directed by Susanna Wolk, the narrative moves back and forth between the Garden of Eden and a contemporary metropolitan apartment, interweaving the stories of the Ancient Adam, Lilith, and Eve with three of their Modern namesakes, and interspersing references to, and iconography from, the canonical Book of Genesis, the apocryphal tales, and the philosophy of duality with a new vision of what it all means.
I'm not sure what's with the article's dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls (the correct dates are third century B.C.E. to first century C.E.). Also, specialists date the redaction of the Babylonian Talmud a couple of centuries later than in the article. But the musical sounds thoughtful and entertaining.

Lilith has received much attention in various artistic media. For past posts on the ancient and modern traditions about her, start here and follow the many links.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Rofé on Balaam the seer

PROFESSOR ALEXANDER ROFÉ has a couple of new essays on the the biblical seer Baalam at

Balaam the Seer Is Recast as a Villain
The oldest biblical sources see Balaam as a great seer, but as time goes on, biblical texts portray him in an increasingly negative light. The key to this shift lies in Deuteronomy’s attitude to Israel and gentiles.
The Account of Balaam’s Donkey: A Late Polemical Burlesque
Already in 1877, Marcus Kalisch, one of the first Jewish scholars to engage in the critical study of the Bible, noted that the story of Balaam’s donkey is a late insertion which contradicts the rest of the story, both narratively and ideologically. Indeed, in the main story, Balaam is a prophetic character to be respected, while the supplement lampoons him.
I have fallen well behind on the essays posted at this site. There are some interesting new ones. I will catch up as time permits.

Meanwhile, for past PaleoJudaica posts on Balaam and on the Deir ʿAlla Inscription, see here (cf. here) and links.

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Ross on Psalm 51

WILLIAM ROSS: NEW ARTICLE ON PSALM 51 IN JSOT. It is his article. He can't post the whole text, but he does summarize it and give the "punch line."

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Monday, July 22, 2019

A church dedicated to the Apostle Peter at Bethsaida?

ARCHAEOLOGY: Shrine to Apostle Peter unearthed: Israeli archaeologist (Stephen Weizman, AFP). Two elements of this story are inferential and open to debate.

First, the site, El-Araj, is only one contender to be the ancient city of Bethsaida. The other is et-Tell. Second, there is no direct indication — such as an inscription — in the ruins of the church that it was dedicated to Peter. The inference is based on an account by an eighth-century visitor.

Read the whole article for details.

Past posts on the two contending sites for Bethsaida are here (cf. here) and links.

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Reviews of Barton, A History of the Bible

THE ETC BLOG: Barton on the Bible. Peter Gurry notes a couple of reviews of John Barton's new book, A History of the Bible: The Story of the World's Most Influential Book (Viking).

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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Lataster, Questioning the Historicity of Jesus

Questioning the Historicity of Jesus

Why a Philosophical Analysis Elucidates the Historical Discourse

Value Inquiry Book Series Online, Volume: 336
Value Inquiry Book Series
Philosophy and Religion

Author: Raphael Lataster

This volume moves beyond the mainstream scholarly scepticism over the Christ of Faith and considers if there is sufficient evidence to establish the existence of the more mundane Historical Jesus. Using the logical tools of the analytic philosopher, Lataster finds that the relevant sources are unreliable as historical documents, and that the key method of those purporting that the Historical Jesus existed is to appeal to sources that do not exist. Considering an ancient hypothesis suggesting that Jesus began as a celestial messiah that certain Second Temple Jews already believed in, and was later allegorised in the Gospels, Lataster discovers that it is more reasonable to at least be agnostic over Jesus’ historicity.

Publication Date: 1 July 2019
ISBN: 978-90-04-40878-4
Brill has published a Mythicist book on Jesus. It will be interesting to see how it is received.

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