Saturday, August 31, 2019

In honor of Khaled Al-Asaad

PALMYRA WATCH: The Guardian Spirit of Palmyra, Khaled Al-As’aad (The Syria Times).
The 18th of August marks a very distressing occasion for all Syrians; yet a source of pride; in commemoration of Mr. Khaled Al-Asa’ad assassination; the Arabic Cultural Center of Abou Roumani hosted the occasion along with Mada Cultural Project, through displaying a documentary entitled “Palmyra Admirer”, directed by Ghassan Shmit, on Khaled Al-Asa’ad documenting his life and death, but most significantly his passion for his beloved Palmyra.

The Syrian archaeologist, who held the position of head of antiquities at the ancient city of Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for over 40 years; was publicly beheaded by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on 18 August 2015, at the age of eighty three.
For more on the murder of Dr Asaad by ISIS, see here and here.

Many other past posts on Palmyra, its history, the ancient Aramaic dialect spoken there (Palmyrene), and the city's tragic reversals of fortune, now trending for the better, are here and links.

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Friday, August 30, 2019

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Talmud on sacrificial restrictions and prostitution

LAST WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: If a Man Gives a Woman a Lamb in Exchange for Sex. This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ follows its own logic from animal sacrifice to definitions of prostitution.
The Talmud seldom explicitly reckons with the fact that the laws of animal sacrifice are in abeyance. One exception comes in Chapter 5 of Temura, when the rabbis address the issue of whether it is possible to use “artifice” to get around the obligation to sacrifice every firstborn animal. The problem is that while there is no place to actually sacrifice such animals today, they are still born consecrated to God, which means that they can’t be eaten, shorn, or used for labor. Rather, one is supposed to let them alone until they develop a blemish that would render them unsuitable for sacrifice. Only then is it permitted to derive benefit from them, since they can no longer even theoretically be brought to the altar.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Lataster and McGrath debate Mythicism

THE BIBLE AND INTERPRETATION has recently published two essays on "Mythicism" — the idea that Jesus did not exist as an historical person. Raphael Lataster argues for agnosticism on the question:
Questioning Jesus’ Historicity

As a secular scholar, I, of course, reject hypotheses involving the Christ of Faith. Critical scholars can only reasonably debate the existence of the so-called Historical Jesus, that figure of the Gospels stripped of all divinity. Most secular scholars of the New Testament believe that this figure certainly existed. I noticed that this is an assumption, however, later finding it to be an unjustified assumption.

See Also: Questioning the Historicity of Jesus (Brill 2019).

By Raphael Lataster
University of Sydney
August 2019
I noted his recent book here.

James McGrath replies and disagrees:
Exorcising Mythicism’s Sky-Demons: A Response to Raphael Lataster’s “Questioning Jesus’ Historicity.”

Historians do not depend on the Gospels, much less hypothetical sources behind them, for their conclusion that there was a historical Jesus. The letters of Paul, written within decades of Jesus’ life by someone who had met his brother, combined not only with the Gospels but also Roman and Jewish sources, together provide a convincing impression that the religious phenomenon known as Christianity owes something to a historical figure named Jesus whose detractors viewed him as a charlatan and/or heretic.

See: Questioning Jesus’ Historicity.
Mythicism and the Mainstream: The Rhetoric and Realities of Academic Freedom.

By James F. McGrath
Butler University
August 2019
I think McGrath gets the better of the debate here, but you can read the essays and decide for yourself. For my own views about the historical Jesus, see here and links and here.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Interview with Peter J. Gentry

WILLIAM ROSS: LXX SCHOLAR INTERVIEW: DR. PETER J. GENTRY DISCUSSES HIS NEW CRITICAL EDITION. Of Greek Ecclesiastes, that is. I noted the publication of the volume here.

For Dr. Ross's many previous interviews with Septuagint scholars, see here and links and here.

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Monday, August 26, 2019

On Solomon's Temple and archaeology

ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE AND ICONOGRAPHY: Reconstructing the Features of Solomon’s Temple (Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu and Prof. Yosef Garfinkel,
A small shrine model, found in an archaeological excavation of the 10th century B.C.E. city of Qeiyafa, together with a 9th century B.C.E. Temple excavated at Motza, help us better understand the Temple of Solomon, known only from the biblical text.
For past posts on the model shrines at Iron Age II Khirbet Qeiyafa, see here and links. I noted the discovery of the Iron Age II shrine at Motza here.

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Hamidović et al. (eds.), »Retribution« in Jewish and Christian Writings

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: »Retribution« in Jewish and Christian Writings. A Concept in Debate. Ed. by David Hamidović, Apolline Thromas, and Matteo Silvestrini. 2019. IX, 220 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 492. 84,00 € including VAT. sewn paper ISBN 978-3-16-154721-8.
Published in English.
The authors of this volume attempt to define the concept of retribution by looking beyond its diversity in Jewish and Christian writings, and seeking the common objects and components that govern it in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity, as well as Greek, Islamic and Buddhist texts. They argue that the concept should not be seen as a set of ideas acquired and accepted, but rather as an on-going process. The epistemological current of the Begriffsgeschichte understands conceptualization as a continual process of contesting and questioning, rather than something fixed or final. Each study therefore explicitly examines the actors involved, their environments and receptions, and whether they were accepted, rejected, or modified as components of compensation. The associations made with concepts of wealth, poverty, power, their exchange, transfer, and instance are also taken into consideration.

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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Virtual unfolding of Elephantine papyri

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Physicists discover hidden text in what was thought to be blank Egyptian papyri. It's the latest example of how cutting-edge physics techniques can unlock the past (Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica).
A team of German scientists has used a combination of cutting-edge physics techniques to virtually "unfold" an ancient Egyptian papyrus, part of an extensive collection housed in the Berlin Egyptian Museum. Their analysis revealed that a seemingly blank patch on the papyrus actually contained characters written in what had become "invisible ink" after centuries of exposure to light.

Most of the papyri in the collection were excavated around 1906 by an archaeologist named Otto Rubensohn, on Elephantine Island, near the city of Aswan. They've been gathering dust in storage for much of the ensuing decades, and because they are so fragile, more than 80% of the text within remains undeciphered. ...
The only fully recovered word is the Coptic word for "Lord." But as the process is perfected, it may help to recover a lot of other ancient text more fully.

Given that these papyri are in Coptic, they must be much later than the fifth-century BCE Judean (etc.?) Aramaic papyri from Elephantine. I don't know whether any such Aramaic texts might be included among those undeciphered texts mentioned in the quote. I hope so.

As I like to say:

Bit by bit, a letter at a time, whatever it takes. Until we're done.

Non-invasive and non-destructive technologies are the way of the future for archaeology.

The Singularity is Near.

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