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 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.


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

Children and Methods

Listening To and Learning From Children in the Biblical World

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.

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

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

Availability: Published
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 (
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 (
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 (
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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