Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Burrell, Cushites in the Hebrew Bible

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Cushites in the Hebrew Bible

Negotiating Ethnic Identity in the Past and Present


Series: Biblical Interpretation Series, Volume: 181

Author: Kevin Burrell

Cushites in the Hebrew Bible offers a reassessment of Cushite ethnographic representations in the biblical literature as a counterpoint to misconceptions about Africa and people of African descent which are largely a feature of the modern age.
Whereas current interpretations have tended to emphasize unfavourable portraits of the people biblical writers called Cushites, Kevin Burrell illuminates the biblical perspective through a comparative assessment of ancient and modern forms of identity construction. Past and present modes of defining difference betray both similarities and differences to ethnic representations in the Hebrew Bible, providing important contexts for understanding the biblical view. This book contributes to a clearer understanding of the theological, historical, and ethnic dynamics underpinning representations of Cushites in the Hebrew Bible.

Prices from (excl. VAT): €138.00 / $166.00

E-Book
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-41876-9
Publication Date: 13 Jan 2020

Hardback
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-41875-2
Publication Date: 30 Jan 2020

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Conference on Magic in Late Antiquity in Jerusalem

THE NSEA BLOG: CONFERENCE: MAGIC IN LATE ANTIQUITY. OBJECTS, TEXTS AND CONTEXTS JERUSALEM, MOUNT SCOPUS, MARCH 1-3, 2020. If you are in Jerusalem at the beginning of March, this looks like an excellent conference to attend.

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New BAR issue imminent

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Spring 2020 Issue Is Coming Soon! Available on Thursday (2/27) online for digital and all access subscribers. The new issue is, of course, of Biblical Archaeology Review. This note gives you a foretaste of the contents.

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1000-year-old biblical manuscript recovered in Egypt

MANUSCRIPT: Lost 1,000-year-old Hebrew Bible found on dusty Cairo synagogue shelf. While attempting to document Egyptian synagogues, an Israeli historian stumbles upon a massive, well-preserved 616-page codex that was written in 1028 (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
In July 2017, Israeli historian Yoram Meital stumbled upon a handwritten 1028 CE biblical codex that was lying abandoned on a dusty shelf in a Cairo synagogue. Wrapped in simple white paper of the sort one finds on tables in cheap eateries, at 616 pages, the Zechariah Ben ‘Anan Manuscript is one of the era’s most complete and preserved examples of the “Writings,” the third and concluding section of the Hebrew Bible. It had been lost to scholars for almost 40 years.

[...]
This article also links to the recent Jewish Quarterly Review article that announces the find formally. Happily, the full text is available for free: A Thousand-Year-Old Biblical Manuscript Rediscovered in Cairo: The Future of the Egyptian Jewish Past (Yoram Meital; JQR 110.1 [2020]: 194-219).

Cross-file under Karaite Watch.

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Linguistic dating of biblical Hebrew?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Linguistic Hints to the Age of the Hebrew Bible Can language analysis determine the initial date of the ancient Hebrew manuscripts? (Jonathan Laden ). This essay introduces an article in the current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review by Ron Hendel and Jan Joosten. The article itself is behind the subscription wall, but the essay gives you a taste of it.

For their book on the same subject, see here. And follow the links from there for other relevant posts. And I have some comments on the issue here.

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Monday, February 24, 2020

Ancient Sicilian Judaism

EXHIBITION: Little-known Jewish history of Sicily on display centuries after expulsion. “After 1492, Jews had to leave the island and their possessions were sold, destroyed or reused for other purposes, as it happened to many of the Jewish sites" (Rossella Tercatin, Jerusalem Post).
Though little survives, the Jewish presence in Sicily dates back to the Roman era and represents an important page of the island’s history, as explained in the temporary exhibit “Documenti di storia ebraica dalle collezioni del Museo Salinas,” (Documents of Jewish history from the collections of Salinas Museum) at Palermo’s Regional Archaeological Museum Antonio Salinas.
Some of what survives from antiquity:
Among the artifacts on display are several coins from the series of the so-called Iudae Capta coins minted by Titus and his father Vespasian after they conquered and destroyed Jerusalem to celebrate their victory. One of them features a woman crying and kneeling under a palm tree as a personification of the Jewish nation and the Emperor Vespasian in a triumphant attitude.
Another artifact on display is a burial inscription in Greek dating back to the 4th or 5th century CE remembering a man named Zosimiano and carrying a stylized menorah.
The article has a nice photo of the burial inscription.

For a photo of this style of Judaea Capta coin, follow the link to the BHD essay here.

For more on Jewish Palermo, see here.

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Daniel 10-11: angels and a vision of history

AT READING ACTS, Phil Long continues his blog series on the Book of Daniel.

Daniel 10 – Daniel’s Vision of a Great Angelic Being
I have some comments on chapter 10 here.

Daniel 11 and History
As Phil notes, chapter 11 is difficult to follow. It briefly deals with the Persian empire, mentioning only four of the eleven kings (v. 2). Then it refers obliquely to Alexander the Great (vv. 2-3) and the Diadochoi (v. 4). The rest of the chapter covers a span of Ptolemaic and Seleucid history without giving any actual names of the people. Indeed it gives them code names, some of which are repeated for different individuals.

In a number of PaleoJudaica posts on numismatic articles etc., I have gone through Daniel 11 and explained who many of the characters are.

For the figures in the Ptolemaic dynasty, see here, here, and here.

For the figures in the Seleucid dynasty, see here, here and here.

Phil notes correctly that the events in 11:40-45 are actual predictions, not predictions after the fact. We know that because the events in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes turned out differently. More on that here and here.

For notice of previous posts in Phil's series on Daniel, sometimes with my own comments, see here and follow the links.

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Bonner, The Last Empire of Iran

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: The Last Empire of Iran. Notice of a New Book: Bonner, Michael Richard Jackson. 2020.The Last Empire of Iran (Gorgias Handbooks). Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press LLC. On the Sassanian Empire. Follow the link for description and ordering information.

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Sunday, February 23, 2020

Sifting a new Temple Mount heap

THE TEMPLE MOUNT SIFTING PROJECT BLOG: KI10 HERE WE COME!. KI10 is a new heap of Temple Mount dirt which the project has begun sifting. It already shows a promising profile of artifacts. If you have been thinking about volunteering for the Temple Mount Sifting Project, now would be a good time.

Some background on the project is here. And for many other posts, start here and follow the links.

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Parables in Changing Contexts (ed. Poorthuis & Ottenheijm)

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Parables in Changing Contexts

Essays on the Study of Parables in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism


Series:Jewish and Christian Perspectives Series, Volume: 35

Editors: Marcel Poorthuis and Eric Ottenheijm

In Parables in Changing Contexts, new venues in the comparative study of parables are addressed by scholars of Judaism, New Testament, Buddhism and Islam. Essays cover parables in the synoptic Gospels, Rabbinic midrash, and parabolic tales and fables in the Babylonian Talmud. Three essays address parables in Islam and Buddhism. The volume shows how parables are suitably adapted in terms of form and rhetoric to enhance religious identity formation. Parables serve as media, as sensational forms making the sacred present, albeit encoded or riddled, in all cases invoking the listener’s active interpretative participation and cultural imagination. Adapting a multidisciplinary approach to these gems of storytelling, parables in a particular way provide new insights in the cultures that produced them.

Prices from (excl. VAT): €127.00 / $153.00

E-Book
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-41752-6
Publication Date: 30 Dec 2019

Hardback
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-41696-3
Publication Date: 19 Dec 2019

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Were Miriam, Aaron, and Moses originally siblings?

PROF. MARK LEUCHTER & DR. RABBI ZEV FARBER: Pre-Biblical Aaron, Miriam, and Moses (TheTorah.com).
In the Torah, Aaron, Miriam, and Moses are siblings; Aaron is the biological ancestor of all priests, Moses is the redeemer of Israel from Egypt, and Miriam, their sister, leads the Israelite women in song. But what can we reconstruct about who these ancient figures may have been?

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Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Song of Moses or the Song of Miriam?

PROF. CAROL MEYERS: Miriam’s Song of the Sea: A Women’s Victory Performance (TheTorah.com).
Miriam and the Israelite women echo briefly the famous Song of the Sea sung earlier in Exodus 15… or do they? A closer examination reveals a more prominent role for Miriam and provides information about women as musical performers using song, dance, and drums in ancient Israel.

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Review of Mylona & Nicholson (eds.), The Bountiful Sea

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: D. Mylona, R. Nicholson (ed.), The Bountiful Sea: Fish Processing and Consumption in Mediterranean Antiquity. Proceedings of the International Conference Held at Oxford, 6-8 September 2017. Journal of Maritime Archaeology Special Issue, 13.3. New York: Springer, 2018. Pp. 290. ISBN 1557-2293. Reviewed by Christy Constantakopoulou, Birkbeck College, London (c.constantakopoulou@bbk.ac.uk).
Recent years have shown that fish and fishing in the ancient Mediterranean are an exciting new research field,1 to which the present volume is a splendid contribution. Originating from a conference in Oxford in September 2017, the volume brings together a diverse range of scholars, ancient historians and archaeologists, including ichthyoarchaeologists, but also marine biologists and historians of food, to address a number of important questions. It is impossible in a short review to discuss each contribution individually, so I shall focus on themes and approaches.

The editors identify three themes in their introduction (p. 210): fish and fish products in their cultural context; archaeological evidence in the western and eastern Mediterranean; and the logistical and social organization of production of processed fish and associated materials, particularly salt. Most contributions address one or more of these themes, although other threads also run throughout the volume.

[...]
The article by Susan Weingarten deals with fish and fish products in the Talmudic literature.

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Review of Sherwood (ed.), with Fisk, The Bible and Feminism

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | The Bible and Feminism: Remapping the Field (Kathleen Gallagher Elkins).
Yvonne Sherwood, editor, with Anna Fisk. The Bible and Feminism: Remapping the Field. New York: Oxford, 2017.
Excerpt:
Overall, this book combines tightly focused contributions with essays that apply a wide-angle lens to the field. By offering readers insights from multiple perspectives, this volume gestures toward under-explored territory in biblical studies. It is a relatively expensive and expansive work, however, so will likely be encountered in a piecemeal way by most readers. For those with the time, energy, and access, I recommend engaging with the whole work. ...

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Friday, February 21, 2020

Videos on the Aramaic DSS

AT BIBLE HISTORY DAILY, Dr. Andrew Perrin introduces two of his videos on the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls:

Lost Books, Scribal Authority, and Abraham against the Egyptians in Genesis Apocryphon. Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Shorts, Episode 4

The Timely and Timeless Message of Hope. Four Kingdoms Motifs in Ancient Jewish Apocalypses. Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Shorts, Episode 5

At both, scroll down for links to earlier episodes.

For some past posts on Dr. Perrin's research, see here and links.

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Schiffman lecture series on DSS in Baltimore in March

PROF. LAWRENCE H. SCHIFFMAN: LECTURE SERIES: THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS AND SECOND TEMPLE HISTORY.
Beth Tfiloh Congregation in Baltimore is hosting a three-part lecture series with Prof. Lawrence Schiffman on the Dead Sea Scrolls and Second Temple History:
Follow the link for details. The first lecture is on 4 March. If you are in Baltimore, these are well worth attending.

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Ancient mikvehs still filling

DURABLE ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE: Ancient Judean ritual baths fill with water following intense winter rains. The baths are located south of Jerusalem in the West Bank, near the settlement of Neveh Daniel (Rossella Tercatin, Jerusalem Post).

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Review of Ulrike Steinert (ed.), Assyrian and Babylonian Scholarly Text Catalogues: Medicine, Magic and Divination

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Ulrike Steinert (ed.), Assyrian and Babylonian Scholarly Text Catalogues: Medicine, Magic and Divination. Die babylonisch- assyrische Medizin in Texten und Untersuchungen, Band 9. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2018. Pp. 384. ISBN 9781501513633. $183.99. Reviewed by Elyze Zomer, Philipps-Universität Marburg (elyze.zomer@staff.uni-marburg.de).
The present volume is the result of the collaborative and individual efforts of the BabMed Project in Berlin.1 It comprises two parts: the first “Studies on Mesopotamian Text Catalogues” (pp. 8–200) contains seven contributions (discussed below) providing a valuable analysis of Mesopotamian text catalogues and tablet inventories of first millennium BCE focusing on medicine (asūtu), exorcism (āšipūtu), and divination; whereas the second “Text Sources” (pp. 203–333) presents critical philological editions of three distinctive corresponding text catalogues being the so-called Assur Medical Catalogue (AMC), the Exorcist’s Manual, and the joint catalogue of the diagnostic and physiognomic omen series Sakikkûand Alamdimmû.

[...]
This is a very technical volume. But its subject matter is of some interest for Second Temple Judaism. The area of āšipūtu, "exorcism," was the specialty of the (Assyro-)Babylonian medico-religious practitioner called the āshipu. These practitioners appear in the Book of Daniel as opponents of Daniel and his three friends. More on them here and here. Daniel's version of them is another feature of Aramaic Fantasy Babylon. The book under review tells us more about the work of the actual practitioners as well as about the work of their counterpart, the asū or "physician."

For earlier posts about religious and cultural aspects of late ancient Babylonia, see here and links.

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ANE beers meet certified standards

RESURRECTING ANCIENT BEER: Beer in Israel, old and new. “This is the first time we succeeded in producing ancient alcohol from ancient yeast. In other words, from the original substances from which alcohol was produced. This has never been done before” (DOUG GREENER, Jerusalem Post).
At that event [at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem], [Dr. Michael] Klutstein revealed that his laboratory, along with Hebrew University’s Yissum Research Development Co., plan to bring three of these ancient beverages to the commercial market: The Egyptian beer (tentatively to be called “Narmer,” the first pharaoh), the Philistine beer (“Goliath”) and the Persian mead (“Ishtar”). Yissum is now seeking investors for this project.
The beers have been approved by "a panel of certified Israeli beer judges."

I noted the original story of the resurrected beers here. This effort is not the first. Follow the links from there for others. A tangentially related post is here. Cross-file under Technology Watch.

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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Syriac cataloging job at HMML

THE NSEA BLOG: JOB: SYRIAC CATALOGUING AT THE HILL MUSEUM & MANUSCRIPT LIBRARY. I don't see a deadline in the announcement. But if you want to apply, I wouldn't dawdle.

There are many PaleoJudaica posts on the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library. Just run "HMML" through the search engine to find them.

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A sifted Byzantine bulla?

THE TEMPLE MOUNT SIFTING PROJECT BLOG: FIND & FINDER OF THE MONTH: A BULLA OF AN UNKNOWN TYPE, DISCOVERED BY THE SCHWARTZES.

UPDATE: for many other posts on the project, start here and here and follow the links.

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Bronze coinage of the Ptolemaic kings

NUMISMATICS: NGC Ancients – Bronze Coinage of the Greek Kings of Ptolemaic Egypt (CoinWeek).

There are lots of biblical and related links, especially in the Book of Daniel, to the kings who produced the coins covered in this article. The title "the king of the south" is used, confusingly, for several of them.

Alexander the Great is the he-goat from the west who strikes down the ram with two horns (the Medo-Persian Empire) in Daniel 8:5-8, 21. He is also the mighty king of 11:3-4.

Ptolemy I is one of Alexander's generals who vied for his kingdom after the death of the latter (Daniel 8:8, 22; 11:4). He is also the king of the south in 11:5.

Ptolemy II Philadephus is the king of the south whose daughter (Berenice I) is mentioned in Daniel 11:6. And according to the legend in the Letter of Aristeas, he commissioned the Greek translation of the Pentateuch.

Ptolemy III is the branch from the roots of the daughter of the king of the south mentioned in Daniel 11:7-9.

Ptolemy IV Philopater is the king of the south mentioned in Daniel 11:11.

CoinWeek had an earlier three-part series on the Ptolemaic coins, which I noted here, here, and here. I discussed their biblical and ancient Jewish connections in those posts. And for still more on the Ptolemaic coinage, see here.

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Empirical models for the Song of Deborah?

PROF. AARON KOLLER: Composing the Song of Deborah: Empirical Models (TheTorah.com).
The Song of Deborah in Judges 5 is similar to both Arabic qaṣīdā poetry and ancient Egyptian epic poetry. How should we categorize it? Is it like the former, and composed orally by a bard, or like the latter, and composed by a royal scribe?

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Major grant for exploring Israel's coastline

MARINE ARCHAEOLOGY: Ancient harbors, sunken ships: Supporting marine archaeology off Israel’s coast. “The world’s oceans and seas are the last great frontier of archaeological exploration, and the Mediterranean Sea holds the oldest and most densely traversed maritime network in the world,” said Professor Thomas Levy in the Department of Anthropology at UC San Diego (University of Haifa via Jewish News Syndicate). This article announces a Koret Foundation grant of over $1 million for the archaeological exploration of the coastline of Israel. Congratulations to both Universities on this collaboration.

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Bible Places Blog moves

THE BIBLE PLACES BLOG has moved. The new URL is https://www.bibleplaces.com/blog/. I have updated the link in PaleoJudaica's blogroll. The old address is still good for now, but you may want to update your own list.

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A Canaanite temple at Lachish

ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE: Rare ‘smiting gods’ among artifacts found at 12th century BCE Canaanite temple. Once-in-a-career Bronze Age findings from Lachish described as ‘breathtaking’ by archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel, who published a comprehensive report on 2013-2017 excavations (Amanda Borschel-Dan).
“This excavation has been breathtaking,” said lead archaeologist Professor Yosef Garfinkel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology in a press release on Monday. The excavation report, “The Level VI North-East Temple at Tel Lachish,” was recently published in the academic journal Levant: The Journal of the Council for British Research in the Levant.
The inscribed ostracon fragment was published in 2015. I noted it here.

In 2017 there was a report of the discovery of a 2,200-year-old Idumean temple or palace at Lachish.

Also, 2020 has seen reports of a substantial Iron Age temple at a site called Tel Moza (Tel Motza, Tel Moẓa, Tel Moẓah).

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Geljon & Runia, Philo of Alexandria On Planting

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Philo of Alexandria On Planting

Introduction, Translation, and Commentary


Series: Philo of Alexandria Commentary Series, Volume: 5

Authors: Albert Geljon and David Runia

The Jewish exegete and philosopher Philo of Alexandria has long been famous for his complex and spiritually rich allegorical treatises on the Greek Bible. The present volume presents first translation and commentary in English on his treatise De plantatione (On planting), following on the volume devoted to On cultivation published previously by the same two authors. Philo gives a virtuoso performance as allegorist, interpreting Noah’s planting of a vineyard in Genesis 9.20 first in theological and cosmological terms, then moving to the spiritual quest of both of advanced souls and those beginning their journey. The translation renders Philo’s baroque Greek into readable modern English. The commentary pays particular attention to the treatise’s structure, its biblical basis and its exegetical and philosophical contents.

Prices from (excl. VAT): €149.00 / $179.00

E-Book
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-41751-9
Publication Date: 04 Nov 2019

Hardback
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-41685-7
Publication Date: 11 Dec 2019

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Carlson, “Possession and Other Spirit Phenomena in Biblical Literature”

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Dissertation Spotlight | Possession and Other Spirit Phenomena in Biblical Literature.
Reed Carlson, “Possession and Other Spirit Phenomena in Biblical Literature.”
Th.D. Dissertation, Harvard University, 2019.
In this project, I map spirit language, rituals, and myths in select texts from the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Jewish literature using conceptual categories and frameworks incubated in the fields of ethnography and cultural anthropology. While spirit possession is more commonly associated with late Second Temple Jewish literature and the New Testament, I argue that possession is also depicted in this earlier literature, though rarely according to the typical western paradigm.

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Belatedly for 8 February: International LXX Day

WILLIAM ROSS: INTERNATIONAL SEPTUAGINT DAY 2020: AN INTERVIEW WITH THE EDITORS OF THE LEXHAM ENGLISH SEPTUAGINT.

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How forgers win

CANDIDA MOSS: How Forgers Get True Believers to Buy Their Fake Artifacts. History is full of examples of knockoffs that exploited religious or political agendas (The Daily Beast). Effective swindles tell victims what they want to hear.

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Monday, February 17, 2020

Tilly & Mell (eds.), Gegenspieler

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Gegenspieler. Zur Auseinandersetzung mit dem Gegner in frühjüdischer und urchristlicher Literatur. Hrsg. v. Michael Tilly u. Ulrich Mell [Antagonists. Dealing with Opponents in Ancient Jewish and Early Christian Literature.] 2019. VIII, 439 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 428. 149,00 € including VAT. cloth ISBN 978-3-16-156096-5.
Published in German.
The authors of this volume examine the perception, depiction, and evaluation of the antagonist in ancient Jewish and early Christian literature. Most of the contributions were presented at an international symposium on the topic of »Gegenspieler« in Tübingen in October 2015.
The essays are in German and English.

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Noll, The Semantics of Silence in Biblical Hebrew

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
The Semantics of Silence in Biblical Hebrew

Series:
Studies in Semitic Languages and Linguistics, Volume: 100

Author: Sonja Noll

In The Semantics of Silence in Biblical Hebrew, Sonja Noll explores the many words in biblical Hebrew that refer to being silent, investigating how they are used in biblical texts, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Ben Sira. She also examines the tradition of interpretation for these words in the early versions (Septuagint, Vulgate, Targum, Peshitta), modern translations, and standard dictionaries, revealing that meanings are not always straightforward and that additional work is needed in biblical semantics and lexicography. The traditional approach to comparative Semitics, with its over-simplistic assumption of semantic equivalence in cognates, is also challenged. The surprising conclusion of the work is that there is no single concept of silence in the biblical world; rather, it spans multiple semantic fields.

Prices from (excl. VAT): €105.00/ $126.00

E-Book
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-41464-8
Publication Date: 03 Feb 2020

Hardback
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-41417-4
Publication Date: 21 Nov 2019

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Saturday, February 15, 2020

From Scribal Error to Rewriting (ed. Aejmelaeus, Longacre, & Mirotadze)

THE OTTC BLOG: From Scribal Error to Rewriting: How Ancient Texts Could and Could Not Be Changed (Drew Longacre). Cross-file under New Book.

The full reference is: Anneli Aejmelaeus, Drew Longacre, Natia Mirotadze eds.), From Scribal Error to Rewriting. How Ancient Texts Could and Could Not Be Changed (De Septuaginta Investigationes (DSI) 12; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2020).

Follow the link for description etc.

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Friday, February 14, 2020

And here's something for that other day

RELIGION PROF: Happy (Mandaic) Valentine’s Day! (James McGrath). And scroll down for more.

I hope you have a good day, whatever you are celebrating!

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It's that day again ...

OLD CHURCH SLAVONIC WATCH: HAPPY (FIRST) SAINTS CYRIL AND METHODIUS DAY 2020! Cyril and Methodius invented the Slavonic alphabet in the ninth century, thus not only converting the Slavs, but also preserving much ancient literature that otherwise would have been lost. That literature includes some intriguing Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.

Today Bulgaria, the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and (sometimes) the Lutheran Church commemorate them. Other traditions do so on 24 May or 5 July. Follow the links for details.

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The latest on the eruption of Vesuvius

THE ERUPTION OF MOUNT VESUVIUS IN 79 CE has been in the news lately. I have collected some recent stories in this post.

First, Bible History Daily reports on The Survivors of Mount Vesuvius Steven L. Tuck finds evidence of those who lived through the eruption at Pompeii and Herculaneum. An article by Professor Tuck is in the current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. Alas it is available only to subscribers. But I had a post on his work last year: Tracing the survivors of Vesuvius.

Second, there has been some more work on that skull that may belong to Pliny the Elder himself: This 2,000-Year-Old Skull May Belong to Pliny the Elder. The Roman statesman launched a rescue mission when Vesuvius erupted but lost his life in the process (Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine). DNA analysis of the skull gives us some new information about the owner which is still consistent with him being Pliny.

I have a post on the skull story from 2017 here. The current story allays one of my concerns: the body under investigation was in fact buried in a mass grave, just as we would have expected of Pliny's body. I remain skeptical of the identification, because I still think Pliny's friends would have kept his jewelry and sword to give back to his family, especially if he was being buried in a comparatively easily-looted mass grave.

That said, I am not a specialist in ancient Roman burial practices and I don't know what evidence we have about the disposition of personal valuables in such circumstances. If you are an expert and have a view, please drop me a note.

This article also leads me to correct an earlier comment. I noted that Pliny's rescue mission may have saved as many as two thousand people, which I misunderstood to be about half the death toll of the eruption. In fact, the current estimate of that toll is about 16,000. So Pliny's mission only saved at most the equivalent of half the death toll at Pompeii.

Only.

If you have to die, that's still an impressive achievement to die at.

Third, more evidence has emerged of the grim effects of the eruption's fatal pyroclastic surge (see bottom of this post): Vesuvius eruption baked some people to death—and turned one brain to glass. A pair of studies reveals more details about what happened to the victims of the infamous event in A.D. 79. (ROBIN GEORGE ANDREWS, National Geographic).
One concludes that those taking cover in the town’s boathouses were not really burned or vaporized, but instead baked as if inside a stone oven. The second has found a victim in a different portion of the city whose brain appears to have melted before being frozen into glass, as if afflicted by sorcery.
Follow the link for photos of the glass brain fragments.

Perhaps I watch too much SciFi (well, probably), but this story made me think of Dennis Potter's last series, Cold Lazarus. I realize that Daniel Feeld's brain was frozen, not vitrified. Vitrified brain is not going to have any structure left in it. But the article does say that the brain glass contains chemical traces. Who knows what information about first-century Roman brain composition the data-recovery technology of 2368 might recover from it?

For many past posts on efforts by scientists to gain access to the text of the carbonized scrolls from the library of Herculaneum (also destroyed by Vesuvius), start here and follow the links. And for many other posts on the eruption of Vesuvius, start here and follow the links.

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Daniel 8-9: vision and exegesis

AT READING ACTS, Phil Long continues his blog series on the Book of Daniel:

Daniel 8 –The Ram and the Goat

Daniel 9:20-27 – The Prophecy of the Seventy Sevens
One point of interest which does not receive a lot of attention in the scholarly literature is what Daniel 9 tells us about scriptural exegesis in the Second Temple period. The chapter opens with "Daniel" studying the scriptures and seeing that an oracle in the Book of Jeremiah (25:11, 12; 29:10) said that the end of the "desolation of Jerusalem" would happen after 70 years. The setting of Daniel 7 is the first year of Darius the Mede. There doesn't seem to have been any such person. But by Daniel's chronology that comes to 538 BCE, nearly 70 years after Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem (which also didn't happen) in 606 BCE (Daniel 1:1).

In other words, the time was near. The character "Daniel," naturally wants to know what happens next. But for the writer of the Book of Daniel, there is another problem: Jeremiah's oracle goes far beyond just predicting the return of Judeans to Jerusalem. It also has Babylon and the nations drinking the cup of the wine of the wrath of God and being decisively defeated (25:15-38). That didn't happen.

What does "Daniel" do to solve this exegetical problem? Does he pull out the concordances and commentaries? No. He prays and fasts and confesses his sins and his people's sins (vv. 3-19). And then the angel Gabriel comes and solves the exegetical problem. Gabriel reveals that the seventy years are in secret code: they actually refer to seventy weeks (of years), at the end of which there will be decisive eschatological judgment.

Daniel 9 is a story, so we should be cautious about over-interpreting it or over-generalizing from it. But arguably it tells us that Jewish scriptural exegesis in the Second Temple period could involve more than close reading of a text. The interpreters could use ritual practices to induce visions for themselves. And in those visions, angels could reveal hidden meanings of a text that solved exegetical problems.

For related thought on scriptural exegesis and on the use of ritual practices to induce visions in the Book of Daniel, see here and here.

And for notice of earlier posts in Phil's Daniel series, sometimes with my commentary, see here and links.

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The ten-thousand-grapes meme

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Papias, Jesus, and the Miraculous Vines (Philip Jenkins).
It is an open question whether the explicitly Jewish version in 2 Baruch is earlier than the saying quoted by Papias, or whether the one influenced the other. As so often, the story reminds us of the very thin boundaries that still separated Christians from their Jewish background, even after the Fall of Jerusalem. It also demonstrates the powerful hold that ideas originating in Enoch had on the early church: all roads lead back to Enoch! Without the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, it is very difficult to make sense of early Christianity.

Originally, the “ten thousand-fold” motif perhaps circulated free of any association with Jesus. For Papias, though, not only has it become firmly identified as a Jesus saying in the oral tradition, but it has already been fitted into a narrative dialogue with Judas. Lest we think that Papias was credulous about such things (as Eusebius certainly thought), Irenaeus has no difficulty accepting that context.

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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Garroway and Martens (eds.), Children and Methods

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Children and Methods

Listening To and Learning From Children in the Biblical World


Series:
Brill's Series in Jewish Studies, Volume: 67

Editors: Kristine Henriksen Garroway and John W. Martens

In Children and Methods: Listening To and Learning From Children in the Biblical World, Kristine Henriksen Garroway and John W. Martens bring together an interdisciplinary collection of essays addressing children in the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and broader ancient world. While the study of children has been on the rise in a number of fields, the methodologies by which we listen to and learn from children in ancient Judaism and Christianity have not been critically examined.

This collection of essays proposes that while the various lenses of established methods of higher criticism offer insight into the lives of children, by filtering these methods through the new field of Childist Criticism, children can be heard and seen in a new light.

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ISBN: 978-90-04-42340-4
Publication Date: 29 Jan 2020

Hardback
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ISBN: 978-90-04-42339-8
Publication Date: 30 Jan 2020

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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Vered Noam awarded Israel Prize in Talmudic Studies

CONGRATULATIONS TO PROFESSOR NOAM: Tel Aviv prof Vered Noam is first woman to receive Israel Prize in Talmudic Studies (JTA).

I have noted Professor Noam's research from time to time at PaleoJudaica, most recently here. Cross-file under Talmud Watch.

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Daniel 7 continued

AT READING ACTS, Phil Long continues his blog series on the Book of Daniel:

Who is the “Little Horn” in Daniel 7:8?
For my view on "the problem of failed prophecy" in Daniel, see my comments on the dating of the book here.

Daniel 7:9-14 – The Heavenly Throne Room
For past PaleoJudaica posts on "the one like a son of man" (in Daniel) and "the son of man" (in 1 Enoch and the Gospels) see here and follow the links. This one in particular deals with the Danielic "one like a son of man."

I have noted past posts in the series here and links.

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The sun god in late-antique Judaism and Christianity

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: The Sun God in the Synagogue (Philip Jenkins).
As so often, it is very difficult to tell the story of early Christianity without getting quite deep into the Judaism of the same era.
For past PaleoJudaica posts on representations of Helios, the Greek sun god, in late-antique synagogues and Jewish literature, see here, here, here, here, and here.

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Review of Keeping Watch in Babylon: The Astronomical Diaries in Context (ed. Steele et al.)

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Johannes Haubold, John M. Steele, Kathryn Stevens, Keeping Watch in Babylon: The Astronomical Diaries in Context. Culture and history of the ancient Near East, volume 100. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2019. Pp. vi, 315. ISBN 9789004397750. €160,00. Reviewed by Erlend Gehlken, Universität Frankfurt/Main (gehlken@em.uni-frankfurt.de).
The so-called “Astronomical Diaries” (henceforth “Diaries”), whose last known exemplar was written in 61 BC, record in cuneiform astronomical events (partly precalculations corrected in accordance with actual observations), commodity values, river levels und historical events over a period of about 500 years. We owe the publication of these texts to Abraham J. Sachs and Hermann Hunger.1

The book is a collection of articles by scholars from various disciplines. Numerous facets of the Diaries are illuminated, ranging from astronomical to historical aspects, by way of astrological, religious, geographical and economic to social features; there is even a reference to the relevance of the astronomical observations for the present day. The introduction to the volume contains all the necessary background information. The first contributions are about the Diaries in their “intellectual context”, followed by those in their “institutional context”. The last four articles cannot be assigned to any particular group.
As I have said before, I like to keep track of research on late ancient Babylonia, because it often provides important background for Second Temple era Judaism.

This particular volume does not seem to have any direct connect with that subject, but I note it for completeness. There may be an indirect connection with the astronomical interests of the ancient Enochic literature, but I leave that to those who know more about such things than I.

For past PaleoJudaica posts on late-ancient Babylonia, see here and links.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Bar Kokhba-era square opens in Jerusalem

ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE: Roman Square reopens in Jerusalem after almost 2,000 years. "We can connect with those who were once here" (Ilanit Chernick, Jerusalem Post).
“It’s like a layer cake.”

This is how Gura Berger, spokeswoman for the East Jerusalem Development Company, known in Hebrew as Pituach Mizrach Yerushalayim (PAMI), described the historic site dating from 135 CE located beneath today’s Damascus Gate on the north side of the Old City of Jerusalem.

[...]
I am not familiar with this site, but it sounds as though the square and the gate date to just after the failure of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 135 CE. But some of the stones are reused from Second-Temple-era architecture.

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Review of Purity, Community, and Ritual in Early Christian Literature (by Blidstein)

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Purity, Community, and Ritual in Early Christian Literature (Kelsi Morrison-Atkins).
Moshe Blidstein. Purity, Community, and Ritual in Early Christian Literature. Oxford University Press, 2017.
The conclusion:
Purity, Community, and Ritual is comprehensive in its analysis of purity discourses across a wide range of early Christian texts, though it might have been helpful to the reader tracing the contours of the argument to pursue a more sustained engagement with fewer texts. Nevertheless, Blidstein’s argument that conceptions of purity and impurity should be analyzed not as embedded categories but as particularly charged sites for grappling with anthropological, cosmological, and ecclesial questions is convincing and has considerable implications for future study.

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Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel 8.4 (2019)

THE JOURNAL HEBREW BIBLE AND ANCIENT ISRAEL has a new thematic issue on Philology and Gender. It is edited by Jacqueline Vayntrub, Laura Quick, and Ingrid E. Lilly.

Follow the link for the TOC and links to the articles. It looks as though full access requires a paid personal or institutional subscription.

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The Phoenicia has landed

VIDEO: Replica of Ancient Ship Docks in Miami (6 South Florida). That ship is, of course, the Good Ship Phoenicia, which docked in Miami, Florida, on Monday afternoon.

Her four-and-a-half-month voyage from Carthage demonstrates that the ancient Phoenicians had the shipbuilding technology to travel to the Americas. Whether they did or not is another matter. I have seen no credible evidence that they did. The coverage of the event in this video is appropriately cautious.

Congratulations to the Phoenica and her crew on an impressive, successful expedition.

Background on her latest voyage, as well as her circumnavigation of Africa in 2008-2010, is here and many links.

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Monday, February 10, 2020

The shrine of the Tomb of Ezekiel is open for visitors

THE LATEST: Jewish Shrine of Prophet Ezekiel’s Tomb Open to Visitors in Iraq's Shi'ite Heartland. The shrine is modestly concealed in the compound of a newly-built Shi'ite mosque that replaced the original synagogue, and is attracting mainly Muslim pilgrims (Judit Neurink, Haaretz premium).
But Ezekiel’s tomb is slowly becoming a site of pilgrimage again – this time by Muslims and even the tensions between the United States and Iran that are playing out in Iraq do not affect it. With the American drone attack on an important Iranian general in Baghdad, the retaliatory rockets fired by Iran and pro-Iranian militias at American troops in Iraq, and the thousands of protesters who have been on the streets since October demanding an end to corruption – the ancient shrine remains a quiet and magical place that is open for all visitors.
This is a Haaretz premium article, so read it quickly before it vanishes behind the paywall.

I have been following the fate of the (traditional) tomb of the prophet Ezekiel in Kifl, Iraq, for many years. It last came to PaleoJudaica's attention nearly a year ago here and here. Follow the links from there for earlier posts. There was a rumor (cf. here) that the Ezekiel Plates, perhaps including the stone plaques bearing the Treatise of the Vessels, came originally from the Tomb of Ezekiel over a century ago. But, this was also disputed. A journalist reported he had evidence that the plates were made in Syria at the beginning of the twentieth century. I have never seen verification for either claim.

The current article gives a lot of recent background, and also some biblical and Quranic background. I don't see a lot new in it. The shrine is still in need of renovation and money is still needed for that. But it is still open to visitors. I don't think I have ever heard the following, at least expressed this clearly.:
In 2008, the original synagogue building was demolished and a new mosque with the traditional Shi'ite blue tiled dome was erected. The shrine, its dome and an old leaning tower in which storks have nested for centuries, are all that remain of the original structure.
The shrine is the place where the Hebrew inscriptions still survive. This paragraph may clarify earlier, contradictory reports about whether the site had been rebuilt into a mosque or not.

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Jacobs & Rollinger (eds.) on Xenophon’s Cyropaedia

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Xenophon’s Cyropaedia. Notice of a New Book: Jacobs, Bruno & Robert Rollinger (eds.). 2019. Ancient Information on Persia Re-assessed: Xenophon’s Cyropaedia. Proceedings of a Conference Held at Marburg in Honour of Christopher Tuplin, December 1-2, 2017. (Classica et Orientalia 22). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

I am skeptical that Xenophon's work had an "impact of the work in canonical and deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament." But perhaps this book would convince me.

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Review of Shayegan (ed.), Cyrus the Great. Life and Lore

BRYN MARY CLASSICAL REVIEW: M. Rahim Shayegan (ed.), Cyrus the Great. Life and Lore. Ilex Series. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2019. Pp. 250. ISBN 9780674987388. $24.95 (pb). Reviewed by Stuart McCunn (s.mccunn@outlook.com).
Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore is an edited volume drawn from a conference held at UCLA in 2013. The aim of the conference was to bring new light to issues surrounding “the historical figure of Cyrus the Great, his world, and later reception in antiquity and beyond.”1 While the volume itself has no divisions above the individual chapters, the structure and presentation clearly reflects this tripartite focus.

[...]
Cyrus the Great and Jason Bourne? Really?

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Sunday, February 09, 2020

Tu B'Shevat 2020

TU B'SHEVAT, the New Year for Trees, begins tonight at sundown. Enjoy!

Last year's Tu B'Shevat post is here, with links to earlier posts. Plus there is this post from earlier this week.

For biblical background, see here. The name "New Year for Trees" comes from Mishnah Rosh HaShanah 1.1. That passage gives two alternative dates for the celebration, one from Shammai and one from Hillel. Hillel's date (15 Shevat) is the one celebrated at present.

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Review of Lapatin (ed.), Buried by Vesuvius: The Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Kenneth Lapatin (ed.), Buried by Vesuvius: The Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2019. Pp. ix, 276. ISBN 9781606065921. $65.00. Reviewed by Nancy H. Ramage, Ithaca College (ramage@ithaca.edu)
This is a book with multiple authors on numerous topics, all shedding light on different aspects of the celebrated Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum and its contents. Published by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, it accompanied an exhibition on the same topic, entitled “Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures from the Villa dei Papiri” (June 26 to October 28, 2019). Sumptuously illustrated on nearly every page, it brings to life many lesser-known works as well as the old chestnuts. The book is dedicated to the memory of Benedicte Gilman, a much-revered editor of Getty books who died as the book was going to press.

[...]
The Herculaneum papyri are not (yet) directly relevant to ancient Judaism. But the Villa of the Papyri is, like the Dead Sea Scrolls, an ancient library discovered on site. And the technological challenges for reading the carbonized papyri are leading to solutions with wide applications for deciphering poorly preserved ancient literature. Background here and many links (cf. here and links on the recovery of the text on the charred Leviticus scroll from Ein Gedi).

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Saturday, February 08, 2020

Sebag Montefiore on Jerusalem

INTERVIEW: Why is Jerusalem important? A Q&A with historian and author Simon Sebag Montefiore This ancient city is the center of the the world's major religions (All About History, Live Science).
Simon Sebag Montefiore is a historian and best-selling author. He has written several books on a wide range of topics, such as Stalin, the Romanovs and the speeches that changed the world. His worldwide best-seller, "Jerusalem: The Biography" (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2014), covers the full history of this fascinating city.

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Fuller, A Discourse Analysis of Habakkuk

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
A Discourse Analysis of Habakkuk

Series:
Studia Semitica Neerlandica, Volume: 72

Author: David J. Fuller

Habakkuk is unique amongst the prophetic corpus for its interchange between YHWH and the prophet. Many open research questions exist regarding the identities of the antagonists throughout and the relationships amongst the different sections of the book. In A Discourse Analysis of Habakkuk, David J. Fuller develops a model for discourse analysis of Biblical Hebrew within the framework of Systemic Functional Linguistics. The analytical procedure is carried out on each pericope of the book separately, and then the respective results are compared in order to determine how the successive speeches function as responses to each other, and to better understand changes in the perspectives of the various speakers throughout.

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Publication Date: 21 Oct 2019

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ISBN: 978-90-04-40888-3
Publication Date: 01 Nov 2019

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The site of Qumran

ATLAS OBSCURA: Qumran National Park. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the ruins of this ancient monastic community (Erez Speiser). As usual Atlas Obscura provides some nice photos. There is room for discussion about the exact relationship between the Essenes and the site of Qumran/the Dead Sea Scrolls.

For past PaleoJudaica posts on the archaeology of Qumran and the connection with the Essenes, see here and links (cf. here).

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Friday, February 07, 2020

Daniel 7

READING ACTS: Daniel 7:4-8 – The Four Beasts. Phil Long continues his blog series on the Book of Daniel.

Regarding the first beast, its identification with Babylon/Nebuchadnezzar is underlined by the end of the sentence, which alludes to Nebuchadnezzar's recovery from beast-madness and return to sanity in chapter 4.

More generally, Daniel's vision of the four beasts is full of exegesis of earlier scriptures, notably the vision in Hosea 13:7-8 and the Merkavah vision in Ezekiel 1. Hosea's vision structures Daniel's, giving us the lion, the leopard, the bear, and the wild beast, in that order. Then details from the four "living creatures" of Ezekiel 1 fill out the picture of each beast. (The word translated "living creature" [חיה, ḥāyāh] is a Hebrew word that means "animal" or "beast" and is cognate to the Aramaic word [חיוה, ḥăwēyṯ] used in Daniel 4-8.) For example, Ezekiel 1 uses the terms lion and eagle and has various wings, four faces, and eyes on its four beasts. I call this "exegesis by bricolage": treating an earlier vision like a heap of bricks and reusing them to construct a new vision. This sort of exegesis is found in other visions in ancient Jewish literature.

And mixed in with all of that is an interpretation of the vision in Daniel chapter 2.

Incidentally, the ten toes in Daniel chapter 2 are missing in the Old Greek. They are probably a secondary addition in the Masoretic Text inspired by the ten horns in chapter 7.

My comments above are not meant to exclude the possibility that Daniel 7 is based on some sort of actual vision experienced by its author. Ancient visionaries were steeped in their scriptures and their visions naturally were full of scriptural themes and images.

For more on visionary scriptural exegesis, see my article “Seven Theses Concerning the Use of Scripture in 4 Ezra and the Latin Vision of Ezra,” in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and the Scriptures (ed. E. Tigchelaar; Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 270; Leuven: Peeters, 2014), 305-326.

I have noted earlier posts in Phil's series on Daniel, sometimes with my own commentary, here and links.

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Septuagint, Targum and Beyond (ed. Shepherd, Joosten and van der Meer

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Septuagint, Targum and Beyond

Comparing Aramaic and Greek Versions from Jewish Antiquity


Series:
Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, Volume: 193

Editors: David James Shepherd, Jan Joosten and Michaël van der Meer

In Septuagint, Targum and Beyond leading experts in the fields of biblical textual criticism and reception history explore the relationship between the two major Jewish translation traditions of the Hebrew Bible. In comparing these Greek and Aramaic versions from Jewish antiquity the essays collected here not only tackle the questions of mutual influence and common exegetical traditions, but also move beyond questions of direct dependence, applying insights from modern translation studies and comparing corpora beyond the Old Greek and Targum, including, for instance, Greek and Aramaic translations found at Qumran, the Samareitikon, and later Greek versions.

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Publication Date: 11 Nov 2019

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ISBN: 978-90-04-41671-0
Publication Date: 11 Dec 2019

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Kirk Douglas studied the Bible and the Mishnah

MAY HIS MEMORY BE FOR A BLESSING: Studying the Bible With Kirk Douglas. He was known to the world as Spartacus. I knew him as Issur Danielovich (Rabbi David Wolpe, NYT).
The world knows Kirk Douglas as Spartacus, and as one of the greatest movie stars of the greatest generation. I know him as my hevruta — the Aramaic word for study partner.

For almost 25 years I met with Kirk Douglas, born Issur Danielovich, once a week to study Torah. After we read through the Bible and hit up all the greats — “That’s a role I was born to play,” he said of King David — we moved on to other books: the Mishna for rabbinical wisdom; “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran; Walt Whitman’s poetry; and modern theology from Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Buber. In time, we just met to talk.

[...]

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Schiffman on Masada and its scrolls

PROF. LAWRENCE H. SCHIFFMAN: MASADA AND ITS SCROLLS. This link leads to a reprint of Professor Schiffman's excellent article in the Jerusalem Report.

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Thursday, February 06, 2020

More ancient date palms have sprouted

TU B'SHEVAT IS THIS WEEKEND: After 2,000 Years, These Seeds Have Finally Sprouted. Six date seeds as old as the Dead Sea Scrolls are now flourishing as trees on a kibbutz (Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic).
Adam, Jonah, Uriel, Boaz, Judith, and Hannah are date-palm trees, and although they were all planted in recent years, the seeds from which they germinated all came from ancient archaeological sites. These seeds, according to radiocarbon dating, were about 2,000 years old. They had waited two millennia to sprout.

The seeds of Judean date palms turn out to have remarkable longevity. A team led by Sarah Sallon, which planted these six trees, first tried in 2005 to germinate a 2,000-year-old seed from the ancient fortress of Masada. To the surprise and delight of Sallon and her colleagues, it sprouted, and they named that first date-palm tree Methuselah, who in the Bible lived to the age of 969.
Past PaleoJudaica posts on Methuselah the date palm are here and links. The first post also discusses the work of Dr Sallon which led to the new crop of ancient palm trees.

The Atlantic article, with many other media treatments, is based on an article published recently in the journal Science Advances (6.6, 2020): Origins and insights into the historic Judean date palm based on genetic analysis of germinated ancient seeds and morphometric studies (Sarah Sallon,, Emira Cherif, Nathalie Chabrillange, Elaine Solowey, Muriel Gros-Balthazard4,, Sarah Ivorra, Jean-Frédéric Terral, Markus Egli and Frédérique Aberlenc).
Abstract
Germination of 2000-year-old seeds of Phoenix dactylifera from Judean desert archaeological sites provides a unique opportunity to study the Judean date palm, described in antiquity for the quality, size, and medicinal properties of its fruit, but lost for centuries. Microsatellite genotyping of germinated seeds indicates that exchanges of genetic material occurred between the Middle East (eastern) and North Africa (western) date palm gene pools, with older seeds exhibiting a more eastern nuclear genome on a gradient from east to west of genetic contributions. Ancient seeds were significantly longer and wider than modern varieties, supporting historical records of the large size of the Judean date. These findings, in accord with the region’s location between east and west date palm gene pools, suggest that sophisticated agricultural practices may have contributed to the Judean date’s historical reputation. Given its exceptional storage potentialities, the date palm is a remarkable model for seed longevity research.

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Are Biblical Hebrew and Modern Hebrew the same language?

PHILOLOGOS: Are Biblical Hebrew and Modern Hebrew the Same Language, or Two Different Ones? What separates language from language, and language from dialect (Mosaic Magazine). This sort of question is a good example of what Scott Adams calls "word thinking" — the idea that defining a word settles a debate. I don't find such things very helpful myself.

In this case, it depends on how you define the word "language." I distinguish "language" from "dialect" such that two dialects of the same language are mutually comprehensible, but two languages are not. But there are a lot of shades between "comprehensible" and "incomprehensible," not least when you look at the question diachronically.

Shakespeare isn't always easy to follow for native speakers of English in 2020. Chaucer is very difficult. But I would still class Chaucer as English. I would say that the difficulty of Biblical Hebrew for Modern Hebrew speakers fluctuates between the difficulty of Shakespeare and the difficulty of Chaucer for Modern English speakers. On that analogy, I would call Biblical Hebrew and Modern Hebrew the same language.

Anyway, read the essay, decide how you want to define "language," and you have your answer.

This Mosaic essay is your one free article this month, unless you register (for free). Then you get two more. In any case, choose wisely.

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Aramaic Incantation Bowls in Museum Collections, vol 1 (Ford & Morgenstern)

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Aramaic Incantation Bowls in Museum Collections

Volume One: The Frau Professor Hilprecht Collection of Babylonian Antiquities, Jena


Series:
Magical and Religious Literature of Late Antiquity, Volume: 8

Authors: James Nathan Ford and Matthew Morgenstern

The Frau Professor Hilprecht Collection of Babylonian Antiquities at Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena houses one of the major European collections of incantation bowls. Forty bowls bear texts written in the Jewish, Manichaean Syriac or Mandaic scripts, and most of the rest (some twenty-five objects) in the Pahlavi script or in various pseudoscripts. The present volume comprises new editions of the Aramaic (and Hebrew) bowl texts based on high-resolution photographs taken by the authors, together with brief descriptions and photographs of the remaining material. New readings are often supported with close-up photographs. The volume is intended to serve as a basis for further study of magic in late Antiquity and of the Late Eastern Aramaic dialects in which the texts were composed.

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ISBN: 978-90-04-41183-8
Publication Date: 04 Nov 2019

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ISBN: 978-90-04-37700-4
Publication Date: 11 Dec 2019

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Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Daniel 6

AT READING ACTS, Phil Long has two more installments in his blog series on the Book of Daniel.

Daniel 6:1 – Who is Darius the Mede?

Daniel 6 and 1-2 Maccabees

There is another version of the story of Daniel in the lions' den in the Apocryphal addition to Daniel known as Bel and the Dragon (vv. 23-42). In that version, God seizes the prophet Habakkuk by the hair and transports him to Babylon so that he can give Daniel his dinner.

UPDATE: Please don't ever do this.

UPDATE: For notice of previous posts in Phil's series on Daniel, see here and links.

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Review of Shoemaker, The Apocalypse of Empire

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Stephen J. Shoemaker, The Apocalypse of Empire: Imperial Eschatology in Late Antiquity and Early Islam. Divinations: rereading late ancient religion. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018. Pp. 260. ISBN 9780812250404. $59.95. Reviewed by Joseph Lipp, Monmouth University (jlipp@monmouth.edu).
The book treats two main topics. The first topic is the eschatological context of early Islam. Here Shoemaker focuses on notions of eschatology and empire and demonstrates that in late antiquity, imperial conquest and eschatology often went hand in hand. Moreover, eschatological expectations were high among Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and Muslims alike. Second, on its way to contextualizing early Islam, the book looks at the broad history of apocalypticism in the religions of the ancient world, including Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and, briefly, paganism. Shoemaker argues against a widespread modern claim that apocalypse as a genre and worldview was naturally anti-imperial.
I noted the publication of the book here.

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Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Did Solomon's Temple have competition?

ARCHAEOLOGY: Iron Age Temple Complex Discovered Near Jerusalem Calls Into Question Biblical Depiction of Centralized Cult. Tel Moẓa site proves there were other sanctioned temples besides the official temple in Jerusalem, TAU and IAA researchers say (Tel Aviv University press release).
In 2012, a monumental Iron Age temple complex dating to the late 10th and early ninth centuries BCE was discovered at Tel Moẓa near Jerusalem by archaeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). The site, identified as the biblical city of Moẓa, within the boundary of the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:26), served as an administrative center for the storage and redistribution of grain.

In the spring of 2019, the first academic excavation of the site set out to fully unearth and study two cult buildings discovered one on top of the other at Tel Moẓa: The monumental temple complex built in the late 10th to early ninth centuries BCE, and a structure beneath it that has only partially been uncovered, tentatively dated to the 10th century BCE.

[...]

"Could a monumental temple really exist in the heart of Judah, outside Jerusalem? Did Jerusalem know about it?" writes PhD student Kisilevitz. "If so, could this other temple possibly have been part of the Judahite administrative system? The Bible details the religious reforms of King Hezekiah and King Josiah, who consolidated worship practices to Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, and eliminated cultic activity beyond its boundaries.

"However, our analysis of the archaeological finds and biblical texts clearly demonstrates that the temple at Moẓa conformed to ancient Near Eastern religious conventions and traditions and biblical depictions of cult places throughout the land. It has become clear that temples such as the one at Moẓa not only could but also must have existed throughout most of the Iron II period as part of the official, royally sanctioned religious construct."

"Despite the biblical narratives describing Hezekiah's and Josiah's reforms, there were sanctioned temples in Judah in addition to the official temple in Jerusalem," Prof. Lipschits adds. "Our discoveries thus far have fundamentally changed the way we understand the religious practices of Judahites."

The rich assemblage of cultic artifacts and architectural remains at the site — including human-shape figurines, horse figurines, a cult stand decorated with a pair of lions or sphinxes, a stone built altar, a stone-built offering table and a pit filled with ash and animal bones — provides an important opportunity to study the formation of cult and religion in the region at the time and provide a framework for the formation of the Kingdom of Judah.

[...]
The discoveries at Tel Moza (Tel Motza, Tel Moẓa, Tel Moẓah) were first published by Shua Kisilevitz and Prof. Oded Lipschits in Biblical Archaeology Review last month.

I noted mention of the excavation of the temple at Tel Moza several years ago here. For more on ancient horse figurines, see here and here.

The temple at Tel Motza has received some attention in the media. The most informative is the article by Amanda Borschel-Dan in the Times of Israel, which draws on an interview with Shua Kisilevitz (HT Joseph Lauer):

Revealed: In First Temple era, another massive temple was in use near Jerusalem. Large 10th century BCE worship complex being excavated at Motza in ancient Judah; 4 miles from Temple Mount, site was ‘sanctioned’ by Jerusalem administration, say archaeologists.

Some other media coverage:

TAU Dig Outside Jerusalem Unearths a Rival to King Solomon’s Temple (David Israel, The Jewish Press)

Biblical Israelites maintained cult practice in temples outside Jerusalem. Research conducted by Tel Aviv University and Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists shed new light on these cult practices thanks to new excavations at the site of a temple uncovered in 2012 (Rossella Tercatin, Jerusalem Post)

Ancient Place of Worship Found Near Jerusalem Challenges Assumptions About First Temple. At least the same size as Solomon’s Temple and resembling that structure’s description in the Bible, Motza temple was used for worship of both Yahweh and idols (Nir Hasson, Haaretz premium)

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Saul was a tall guy - good or bad?

THE BIBLE AND INTEPRETATION:
Heroic Bodies in Ancient Israel: The Case of Saul’s Height

As it turns out, the vast majority of these kings have no body as far as the text is concerned. Solomon has no body of significance. The great rulers of the northern kingdom, such as Jeroboam, Omri, and Ahab, are not attractive or tall or ugly or physically strong—or physically anything. The righteous reformer Hezekiah possesses no beauty that would attract us to him and has no particular appearance at all (though he does get sick at one point; 2 Kgs 20:1–11). Josiah is a complete ghost. These figures loom large in the tradition—why is it, then, that only Saul and David receive physical descriptions, and indeed, by biblical standards, elaborate descriptions at that?

See Also: Heroic Bodies in Ancient Israel (Oxford University Press 2019).

By Brian R. Doak
Associate Professor of Biblical Studies
George Fox University
January 2020

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Monday, February 03, 2020

Daniel 5

READING ACTS has two new installments in Phil Long's series on the Book of Daniel.

Daniel 5 – The Feast of Belshazzar
Apart from this chapter's reference to Belshazzar, all memory of him was lost until the modern decipherment of Akkadian cuneiform. Daniel 5 gets some details wrong: Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus, not Nebuchadnezzar, and he was never actually the king. He acted as regent while his father was away in Teima. But he was a nominally ruling figure at the time of the fall of Babylon to Cyrus the Persian's army. That is a remarkable case of the preservation of an otherwise forgotten Babylonian figure in the Book of Daniel.

The story of the party at the time of the fall of Babylon is also found in the Greek Fantasy Babylon tradition. Herodotus (1.191) says that Cyrus had his men divert the Euphrates and enter the city by that route. The Babylonians were celebrating a holiday in the middle of the city and didn't even notice the entering army until it was too late.

That story doesn't appear in the cuneiform literature. Cyrus, in his propaganda piece, the Cyrus Cylinder, says that he entered Babylon without battle and his army was welcomed by the Babylonians. That is the earliest account we have. It is also an eyewitness account, but by a witness who was far from unbiased. It doesn't mention the river diversion or the party, but it isn't necessarily incompatible with them.

The Nabonidus Chronicle also says that Babylon was captured without a battle. And the very fragmentary text seems to say that various sacred celebrations continued uninterrupted during the year of the conquest.

Also, Berossus, the Babylonian priest, does not include the story in his Hellenistic Greek account of Babylonian history. He just says that Cyrus took the city and gave orders that its outer walls be dismantled to make it less secure. In fact he seems to refute the story indirectly when he says that Nebuchanezzar had built walls to prevent the river from being diverted.

I would class the account of the royal party in Daniel as another legendary element that Daniel shares with Greek Fantasy Babylon. But that may involve some memory of religious festivals that were going on around the same time as the capture of Babylon.

Daniel 5:5-12 – What was the Meaning of the Handwriting on the Wall?
The account of the Writing on the Wall is puzzling in a number of ways. Why is Mina repeated? The three words are names of weights. We would expect them in order of weight. Mina Peres and Tekel would be the correct descending order, and that, in fact, is the the text (Mina once) and order given in the Old Greek (prologue to the chapter - vv. 24-25 are missing in the OG). The nouns are interpreted as participles.

Because of these oddities, scholars have suggested that the original story involved an oracle about the descending value of the Babylonian rulers: Nebuchadnezzar, Nabonidus, and then the regent Belshazzar.

In that case, the Masoretic Text of Daniel 5 reinterprets the oracle, giving it a dual meaning: Babylon has been weighed and found wanting, and it is given to the Medes and the Persians. For the latter part to work, the word Peres has been moved to the end to correspond to the capture of the city by the Persians.

I should also note that the Aramaic of chapters 4-6 in the Masoretic Text (and the Dead Sea Scrolls) is rather different from the Greek version of those chapters in the Old Greek. I don't have time to go into all the differences. But one notable one is that most or all of the cross references to events in the rest of the book are missing in the OG. It is unlikely that some scribe would have gone through those chapters and deliberately deleted them. So this may mean that chapters 4-6 originally circulated as an independent unit. The OG preserves an earlier draft of them that had not yet been fully assimilated into the rest of the book.

I have noted, and sometimes commented on, previous posts in Phil Long's Daniel series here and links.

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The Phoenicia is arriving in Florida

PHOENICIAN WATCH: Replica Phoenician Ship Makes Landfall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida after Unprecedented 6,000-Mile Atlantic Voyage. Tuesday, February 4, 2020 at 12:00pm (Time is approximate due to sea and weather conditions) (Coral Ridge Yacht Club).
The journey across the Atlantic from Tenerife to the Dominican Republic took 39 days, a distance of some 3,700 miles. From the Dominican Republic to Florida, the journey of 1,000 miles will take 12 days. Once completed, the total voyage from Carthage, Tunisia to Florida will have covered over 6,000 miles, taking five months to complete.
The Good Ship Phoenicia launched this expedition from the port of Carthage on 28 September 2019. That sounds like a voyage of a little over four months to me. Am I missing something? In any case, that was good progress.

We now know that ancient Phoenician ships were capable of crossing the Atlantic and reaching the Americas. We pretty much knew that before, but now we've seen it done.

Whether the ancient Phoenicians actually undertook any such voyages is another matter. We have no good evidence that they did.

Past posts on this most recent expedition of the Phoenicia are here, here, and here. Follow the links from there for many posts on the ship's 2008-2010 voyage around Africa. For posts that evaluate the evidence presented for ancient Phoenician travel to the Americas, see the links at the first link in this paragraph.

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Review of Berthelot and Price (eds.), In the Crucible of Empire

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Katell Berthelot, Jonathan Price (ed.), In the Crucible of Empire: The Impact of Roman Citizenship upon Greeks, Jews and Christians. Interdisciplinary studies in ancient culture and religion, 21. Leuven; Paris: Peeters, 2019. Pp. vi, 337. ISBN 9789042936683. €76,00 (pb). Reviewed by Amit Gvaryahu, Martin Buber Society of Fellows, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (amit.gvaryahu@mail.huji.ac.il).
Together with its bibliography, In the Crucible of Empire is an important introduction to scholarship on both the institution and the reception of Roman citizenship in the high empire and into late antiquity. The collation of studies on the empire and its administration with studies on the Jewish and Christian groups which flourished under it is both innovative and laudable. Another innovation, only slightly less significant, is the bringing together of papers by Anglophone and Francophone scholars in one volume.

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Sunday, February 02, 2020

Biblical Studies Carnival 168

ZWINGLIUS REDIVIVUS: 2020: The Carnival. Jim West's characteristically modest title for his carnival this month. But it is pretty thorough.

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Healing and Exorcism in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity (ed. Tellbe & Wasserman, with Nyman)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Healing and Exorcism in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity. Ed. by Mikael Tellbe and Tommy Wasserman with the assistance of Ludvig Nyman. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 511. 79,00 € including VAT. sewn paper ISBN 978-3-16-158936-2.
Published in English.
This volume, originating from a conference on »Healing and Exorcism in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity« hosted by Örebro School of Theology (Sweden) in 2018, deals with the ideological and theological meaning of healing and exorcism in a historical, literary, and socio-cultural perspective. While the first part of the book focuses on Jewish and early Christian texts and themes, the second centres on the transmission, reception and interpretation of the biblical texts in early Christian writings and artefacts.

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Saturday, February 01, 2020

Reed, Demons, Angels, and Writing in Ancient Judaism

NEW BOOK IN CAMBRIDGE CORE:
Demons, Angels, and Writing in Ancient Judaism

Annette Yoshiko Reed, New York University

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Online publication date: January 2020
Print publication year: 2020
Online ISBN: 9781139030847
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781139030847

Subjects: Judaism, Religion

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