Saturday, December 14, 2019

Classical vs. Late Biblical Hebrew

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Biblical Hebrew Phases: A Case Study. (Ronald S. Hendel and Jan Joosten).
The contrast between Classical and Late Biblical Hebrew is best illustrated by juxtaposing two extracts of biblical prose narrative, one from each corpus.
It is a challenge to make this case in a popular essay using very little Hebrew. But I think Hendel and Joosten do a pretty good job.

See here for another brief presentation of their case, which is given fully in their book, How Old Is the Hebrew Bible? A Linguistic, Textual, and Historical Study (Yale University Press, 2018). For more online discussion and reviews, start here and follow the links.

Cross-file under Philology.

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Judean coins in Wacks collection going on auction

NUMISMATICS: Wacks Collection Includes Rare Roman Related Judaean Coins (Goldberg Auctioneers, CoinWeek). The auction takes place in New York on 14-16 January 2020. As always, I hope that the collectors who buy them will make them available to scholars for study. Meanwhile, this article has some photos and descriptions of the coins, which are of interest for the study of ancient Judaism.

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Friday, December 13, 2019

Burke's SBL diary

OVER AT THE APOCRYPHYCITY BLOG, Tony Burke has published his annual SBL diary in three parts:

2019 SBL Diary: Day One. In all three posts, Tony mostly reports on the Christian Apocrypha sessions. But he also has a paragraph in this post on the Postmortem on the So-called First-Century Mark Fragment session. More on that here.

2019 SBL Diary: Day Two. For more on M. R. James and his ghost stories and his apocrypha, start here (cf. here) and follow the many links.

2019 SBL Diary: Day 3. In which Tony consumes "edibles," because California.

Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch and #AARSBL19.

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Review of Fredriksen, Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle (Jennifer Quigley).
Paula Fredriksen. Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017
I noted an earlier review of the book here.

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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Fourth-century church excavated in Aksum

ARCHAEOLOGY: Buried Christian (and Pagan) Basilica Discovered in Ethiopia's 'Lost Kingdom' of Aksum (Tom Metcalfe, Live Science).
"The basilica that we have found is quite important," Harrower said. "There have been other fourth-century basilicas that are known, but most of them were discovered a long time ago and some of them just without a lot of artifacts or information to be had."

In contrast, the early church at Beta Samati holds a trove of ancient artifacts, including early Christian religious artifacts, bronze coins, clay figurines and large pottery amphoras that were used to store either imported wine or olive oil.

"This is telling you that whoever is using this basilica has access to imported luxury trade goods and is quite interconnected into the ancient world and the trade networks," he said.

Some of the ancient bronze coins from the basilica confirmed its age: A coin from the early reign of Aksum's fourth-century King Ezana is decorated with a crescent moon symbolic of the southern Arabian god Almaqah, Harrower said.
Aksum (Axum) has a number of legendary and historical connections with ancient Judaism and early Christianity. I have summarized them here with links. More recent posts on Aksum are here and links.

The following detail in this article caught my eye:
One of the most striking finds is a black stone pendant, decorated with a Christian cross and the motto "venerable" in Ethiopia's ancient Ge'ez script. "This is about the size that you could hang around your neck," he said, "so maybe a priest would have worn this."
The ancient Jewish books of 1 Enoch and Jubilees survive complete only in translations in the ancient Ethiopic language Ge'ez. I do not know Ge'ez, so I can't comment authoritatively. But I do know that a fourth-century inscription in Ge'ez is quite early. The earliest manuscripts in Ge'ez, the Garima Gospels, date from the fourth to seventh centuries. All other manuscripts in Ge'ez come from many centuries later.

This pendant only has one word on it, but it sounds like an exciting discovery.

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Report on the SBL "First Century Mark" Session

VARIANT READINGS: Recap of the SBL “First Century Mark” Session (Brent Nongbri). For background on this rather complicated story and its ramifications, see here and many links. I have not been directly involved with it and I take no position on the various claims and accusations. I keep up with the story for your information. You decide what to make of it.

I am still looking for reports on #AARSBL19 sessions relevant to the interests of PaleoJudaica. If you have written one or found one, please drop me a note.

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Masada essays in the JP

MASADA WATCH: In anticipation of Hanukkah, the Jerusalem Post has published four essays on Masada:

The symbol of Masada. The adoption of Masada as a modern symbol for the State of Israel, however, is controversial because of what Josephus wrote took place there. (Steve Linde). Introductory to the other three.

Masada and Jewish heroism: A new perspective. The most important question is why the Jews at Masada stopped fighting (Moshe Dann). Most of this essay is behind the subscription wall.

The fall of Masada. Two thousand years ago, 967 Jewish men, women and children reportedly chose to take their own lives rather than suffer enslavement or death at the hands of the Roman army (Jodi Magness). For more on Professor Magness's recent book, Masada: From Jewish Revolt to Modern Myth (Princeton University Press, 2019), see here and here. And for many other posts on the history and archaeology of, and revisionist views on, Masada, follow the links at the latter post.

Masada and its scrolls. Masada was first built as a fortress by a Hasmonean priest Jonathan, either the brother of Judah the Maccabee (152–143 BCE) or Alexander Janneus (103–76 BCE) (Lawrence H. Schiffman). Professor Schiffman is a prominent specialist on the Dead Sea Scrolls. I link to his his blog from time to time.

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Nazoreans (and Nazareth) and Enochic Judaism?

THE RELIGION PROF BLOG: Nazoreans and Enochic Judaism at #AARSBL19. There are many interesting blog posts on the goings on at the AAR/SBL meeting in San Diego last month. This one by James McGrath caught my eye. If I get around to it, maybe I will link to some others.

Cross-file under Mandean (Mandaean) Watch.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Sabar, Veritas

Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus's Wife Hardcover – August 11, 2020
by Ariel Sabar (Author)



From National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author Ariel Sabar, the gripping true story of a sensational religious forgery and the scandal that engulfed Harvard.

In 2012, Dr. Karen King, a star professor at Harvard Divinity School, announced a blockbuster discovery at a scholarly conference just steps from the Vatican: She had found an ancient fragment of papyrus in which Jesus calls Mary Magdalene "my wife." The tattered manuscript made international headlines. If early Christians believed Jesus was married, it would upend the 2,000-year history of the world's predominant faith, threatening not just the celibate, all-male priesthood but sacred teachings on marriage, sex and women's leadership. Biblical scholars were in an uproar, but King had impeccable credentials as a world-renowned authority on female figures in the lost Christian texts from Egypt known as the Gnostic gospels. "The Gospel of Jesus's Wife"--as she provocatively titled her discovery--was both a crowning career achievement and powerful proof for her arguments that Christianity from its start embraced alternative, and far more inclusive, voices.

As debates over the manuscript's authenticity raged, award-winning journalist Ariel Sabar set out to investigate a baffling mystery: where did this tiny scrap of papyrus come from? His search for answers is an international detective story--leading from the factory districts of Berlin to the former headquarters of the East German Stasi before winding up in rural Florida, where he discovered an internet pornographer with a prophetess wife, a fascination with the Pharaohs and a tortured relationship with the Catholic Church.

VERITAS is a tale of fierce intellectual rivalries at the highest levels of academia, a piercing psychological portrait of a disillusioned college dropout whose life had reached a breaking point, and a tragedy about a brilliant scholar handed an ancient papyrus that appealed to her greatest hopes for Christianity--but forced a reckoning with fundamental questions about the nature of truth and the line between faith and reason.
Available for pre-order.

I noted Mr. Sabar's important 2016 article in the Atlantic on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife here. And for some follow-up, see here. This book on the same story is coming out in August of next year.

For many, many other posts on the GJW, see here and links. My first post on the subject, back in 2012, is here. And for more on Ariel Sabar's other work, see here and links.

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Review of Aufrecht, A Corpus of Ammonite Inscriptions (2nd ed.)

THE BIBLICAL REVIEW BLOG: Review: “A Corpus of Ammonite Inscriptions, Second Edition” by Walter E. Aufrecht (William Brown). Cross-file under Northwest Semitic Epigraphy.

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Monday, December 09, 2019

Scroll residue in a Dead Sea jar lid?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Decayed Papyrus Hints that More Dead Sea Scrolls Remain. Analysis of a jar lid from the region suggests it once held one or more scrolls (Jonathan Laden).

A few thoughts.

Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written on parchment (animal skin), not papyrus (crushed reed). A jar containing papyrus documents would be unusual, but entirely possible. A reed mat was also found in Cave 10. Just to be difficult, I wonder if we can rule out the possibility that the jar held another reed mat.

The jar lid is unprovenanced. John Allegro bought it. He concluded that it was from a Qumran cave, but not from one of the eleven that we already knew held scrolls. Could be. But I would keep an open mind about its provenance.

As Professor Taylor says in a comment to the DQCAAS article, this find doesn't necessarily imply that more scrolls remain. Just that some once did, but they are now decayed and gone.

For hope of finding more scrolls (possibly very early ones) see here and links. It seems unlikely. But I am an optimist.

Cross-file under Ancient Material Culture and Techology Watch.

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Babylon now

TWO NEW PHOTO ESSAYS cover current conditions in the ancient city of Babylon:

Inside the Abandoned Babylon That Saddam Hussein Built. “If I could, I would go without shoes here, because it’s a holy place,” says a guide to the ancient site (Pesha Magid, Atlas Obscura)

FIT FOR A TYRANT. Inside abandoned Babylon built by Saddam Hussein who thought he was reincarnation of ancient king Nebuchadnezzar (Nicola Stow, The Sun)

The first story has better text and the second better photos. The second seems to be inspired by the first.

One of the first PaleoJudaica posts, way back in 2003, dealt with some related themes: SADDAM AND NEBUCHADNEZZAR. Unfortunately, none of the links remain active. So much the durability of the Internet. Clay tablets had their virtues. The posts here and here are also relevant.

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Sunday, December 08, 2019

Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day 2019

IT'S THAT DAY AGAIN: Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day. Have fun, but be good.

One of the original announcements, with some instructions, is here. The Twitter hashtag is #PretendToBeATimeTravelerDay.

Past posts on the day and related are here (first post) and here and links.

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Bonesho on foreign holidays in rabbinic literature

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Foreign Holidays and Festivals as Representative of Identity in Rabbinic Literature: a Dissertation Spotlight (Catherine Bonesho).
Catherine Bonesho, “Foreign Holidays and Festivals as Representative of Identity in Rabbinic Literature” (PhD diss., University of Wisconsin, 2018).
... I argue that rabbinic discussions of foreign holidays show three primary interests. First, interactions with non-Jews on foreign holidays were prohibited because of the prohibition against idolatry. Second, the rabbis allowed for some interactions with non-Jews in order to benefit from involvement in the imperial economy. Thirdly, and most prominently, through tales about the various origins of Roman holidays, the rabbis used holidays to simultaneously index the identities of Self and Other.

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Ancient Jordanian rock art

NABATEAN (NABATAEAN) WATCH: In Jordan’s desert, ancient rock art finds modern defenders (Taylor Luck, Christian Science Monitor).
The carvings of Wadi Rum are as diverse as the history of these rugged sandy crossroads between Arabia, the Mediterranean, and North Africa.

Much of the art and inscriptions are in Thamudic, or Safaitic; the script, of Bedouin tribes who lived in northern Arabia over 3,000 years ago, a presumed precursor to Arabic and Aramaic.

Then came the Nabataeans, who built an empire from their third-century B.C. capital of Petra, and carved pictures and script in their own language that derived from Thamudic.

Cliff walls here also include messages and Koranic verses in Kufic – an early Arabic script. Then there are the primitive petroglyphs, stick men, women, animals and undecipherable symbols that predate all those civilizations by thousands of years.
For more on the ancient North Arabian dialects as well as on the Nabatean language, see here (cf. here) and follow the links.

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