Saturday, October 12, 2019

Jerusalem was not the same as Shalem?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: First Person: From Shalem to Jerusalem (Robert Cargill). Professor Cargill argues in his new book, Melchizedek, King of Sodom (OUP 2019), that Shalem in Genesis 14 was not the city of Jerusalem.

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Friday, October 11, 2019

The Talmud on using Temple leftovers

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Ends With Benefits. This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study debates the right way to use consecrated Temple leftovers without crossing holy lines.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Magness on the Masada myth(s)

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: The Masada Myth(s) (Jodi Magness).
Josephus’ account of the mass suicide at Masada is so compelling that after Israel was established in 1948, the slogan “Masada shall not fall again” became symbolic of the modern state. The example of Jews putting up a heroic resistance to the death instead of going meekly to their slaughter had great appeal in the wake of the Holocaust and at a time when Israel’s population felt embattled. However, times have changed, and with them, so have perspectives on Masada. For one thing, even those who embrace the mass suicide as a symbol of modern Israel must reconcile it with Judaism’s prohibition against taking one’s own life (although according to Josephus’ account, only the last man died by his own hand). More importantly, in today’s post-Zionist era the story of Masada has become a less compelling model for Israelis. And scholarly views have changed as well. For example, many scholars now believe Josephus’ description of the mass suicide (the only ancient account of this episode) is fabricated – that it never happened!
For more on Professor Magness's recent book, Masada: From Jewish Revolt to Modern Myth (Princeton University Press, 2019), see here. And for many other posts on the history and archaeology of, and revisionist views on, Masada, see here and links.

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

Tenure-track HB job at Harvard

Tenure-track Professor of Hebrew Bible

School Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Department/Area Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

Position Description
The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations seeks to appoint a tenure-track professor at the assistant level in Hebrew Bible as of 1 July 2020. The successful candidate will be familiar with the Hebrew Bible in the original. Candidates are expected to be able to situate the Hebrew Bible within its ancient Near Eastern context and within the broader history of its interpretation. The tenure-track professor will be responsible for teaching and advising at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The tenure-track professor of Hebrew Bible will be appointed in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and will work with colleagues in the Committee on the Study of Religion, the Harvard Divinity School, and other departments in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

assistant, faculty, instructor, tenure track
Boston, Cambridge, Massachusetts, MA, Northeast, New England
Hebrew, Bible, biblical Hebrew, ancient near east, interpretation

Basic Qualifications
Doctorate or equivalent degree in Hebrew Bible or related discipline required by the time the appointment begins.

Additional Qualifications
Demonstrated commitment to excellence in teaching; evidence of intellectual leadership and potential for high impact on the field.
Follow the link for application instructions. Applicants are "encouraged" to apply by 1 November 2019.

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The "Curse of the Dancer"

GREEK EPIGRAPHY: Ancient 'Curse of the Dancer' Deciphered, Revealing Backstabbing Rivals (Owen Jarus, Live Science).
A Greek engraving on a 1,500-year-old lead tablet discovered in the ruins of an ancient theater in Israel has finally been deciphered, revealing a curse that may rival the modern-day backstabbing between athletic opponents.

The curse calls upon numerous demons to inflict harm on a dancer named Manna, who likely performed at the famous Caesarea Maritima theater in Israel, which was built by Herod the Great.

Professor Attilio Mastrocinque has deciphered this long curse tablet using "Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI)." For more on that technique, see here and links. Cross-file under Technology Watch.

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Review of Novenson, The Grammar of Messianism

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Matthew V. Novenson, The Grammar of Messianism: An Ancient Jewish Political Idiom and Its Users. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xvi, 361. ISBN 9780190255022. $78.00. Reviewed by D. Clint Burnett, Johnson University (
His work is not based on new data, but on a new way of perceiving ancient Jewish and early Christian messianic texts, namely unencumbered by the messianic idea and with fresh contextual exegeses of messianic texts that probe their inner logic. He shifts the conversation about messianism from the general to the particular and from the realms of politics and history into that of particular texts, contexts, and exegesis. Adopting Ludwig Wittgenstein’s theory of language game—the “theory that human language is best conceived not as a set of symbols corresponding to things in the world, but rather as a set of rules for participation in various kinds of discourse” (12)—Novenson claims that words derive their meanings from context. Therefore, scholars must avoid preconceived notions or ideas about what words mean, especially in ancient texts. It is clear that Jewish and Christian authors’ use of messianic language is part of “one great Mediterranean language game” that can be traced to their contextualized interpretations of the Hebrew Bible. In short, Novenson concludes “ancient messiah texts constitute one example . . . of the vast, sprawling ancient Jewish and Christian project of scriptural interpretation” (17). The purpose of this book is to map the rules of this language game or the grammar of messianism. (21).
Past PaleoJudaica posts on the book are here and links.

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Wednesday, October 09, 2019

On Abraham and the Aqedah

PROF. AARON KOLLER: Abraham Passes the Test of the Akedah But Fails as a Father (
The story of the Akedah appears to present Abraham’s actions in a uniformly positive light. However, Isaac’s absence at the end of the story, and Sarah’s death immediately afterwards, suggested to some traditional and modern commentators a criticism of Abraham.
For another ancient understanding of the Akedah — that Abraham actually sacrificed Isaac — see here and links.

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Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Yom Kippur 2019

YOM KIPPUR, the Day of Atonement, begins this evening at sundown. An easy fast to all those observing it.

Last year's post on Yom Kippur is here (bonus post here). For background and previous posts, follow the link from there. Biblical etc. background is here.

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Warren on transformational eating

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Food and Transformation in Ancient Mediterranean Literature (Meredith J C Warren).
Hierophagy is the word I chose to describe this genre of transformational eating.[3] I define hierophagy as a mechanism by which characters in narrative cross boundaries from one realm to another through ingesting some item from that other realm. Hierophagy results in three specific types of transformations: (A) the binding of the eater to the place of origin of the food; (B) the transformation of the eater either in terms of behaviour or physical appearance; and/or (C) the transmission of new knowledge.
This essay gives us a taste of Dr. Warren's new book, Food and Transformation in Ancient Mediterranean Literature (SBL Press, 2019).

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Monday, October 07, 2019

Apocryphal gospels as fan fiction?

NEW TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA WATCH: Fan Fiction and Alternative Gospels (Philip Jenkins, The Anxious Bench). Excerpt:
Popular media tend to assume that there is an ancient era in which gospels were produced abundantly, presumably because the authors had some special knowledge or perception to share. In fact, such production carried on in high volume for much longer than this model suggests, at least through the sixth and seventh centuries, with many later contributions. At no point in history—say, around 400—did churches suddenly cease recording what they believed to be Christ’s authentic message, and certainly they did not do so because of the edicts of some all-powerful hierarchy. The Christian story is one of organic growth and development, from early times, through medieval, to modern, and beyond.
Related post here.

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Sunday, October 06, 2019

Frey, Qumran, Early Judaism, and New Testament Interpretation

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Jörg Frey. Qumran, Early Judaism, and New Testament Interpretation. Kleine Schriften III. Edited by Jacob N. Cerone. 2019. XXI, 906 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 424. 214,00 € including VAT. cloth ISBN 978-3-16-156015-6..
Published in English.
The articles collected here present the fruits of 25 years of scholarship on Qumran and the New Testament. The author situates the New Testament within the pluralistic context of Second Temple Judaism, presents detailed overviews on the discoveries from Qumran, the source value of the ancient texts on the Essenes, the interpretation of the archaeological site, the various forms of dualism within the texts, the development of apocalyptic thought, Qumran meals, and scriptural authority in the Scrolls. He evaluates the various patterns of relating Jesus and the apostles to the Scrolls or the Qumran community, presents methodological reflections on comparisons and detailed surveys of the most important insights from the Qumran discoveries for the understanding of Jesus, Paul, and the Fourth Gospel. This volume demonstrates how the discovery of the Scrolls has influenced and changed New Testament scholarship.

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