Saturday, December 12, 2020

Allen C. Myers, 1945-2020

SAD NEWS: In Memoriam: Allen C. Myers (Erdword Blog).
Longtime Eerdmans biblical studies editor Allen C. Myers died early on Thanksgiving morning, November 26, 2020, following numerous months of declining health. A private (because of COVID-19 restrictions) memorial service was held Friday, December 4, at Trinity United Methodist Church of Grand Rapids, MI.


Allen was chief editor for Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures volume 1 (Eerdmans, 2013). I worked with him for many years on the project.He was a good guy.

Requiescat in pace.

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

Who sold Joseph?

PROF. RABBI MARTY LOCKSHIN: Joseph Accuses His Brothers of Selling Him – But Did They? (
When Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, he says, “I am your brother, whom you sold into Egypt” (Gen 45:4). Tradition takes for granted that Joseph’s brothers were indeed the ones who sold him. However, as Rashbam and Shadal note, a straightforward peshat reading of events once Joseph is thrown into the pit reveals a different conclusion.

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

Philo on his own mind

SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE: Philo Can’t Trust His Mind: On Senses and Self.

HT Rogue Classicism.

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


ARCHAEOLOGY AND HISTORY: Fortress of Machaerus holds clues to region’s past (Saeb Rawashdeh, Jordan Times).
AMMAN — For decades, scholars have linked the biblical tradition about the beheading of John the Baptist with the material evidence found at the site overlooking the Dead Sea, according to a Hungarian archaeologist .


For background on Machaerus and its excavation, see here and many links.

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

Friday, December 11, 2020

Postdoctoral researcher on the Qur’an and Aramaic Christianity

POSTDOC: Richard Bauckham has kindly forwarded this e-mail from Professor Rémi Gounelle. Note that the deadline is the end of this month. If you want to apply, don't dawdle!
Postdoctoral researcher on the Qur’an and Aramaic Christianity (m/f/d, E 13 TV-L, 100%)

Faculty of Protestant Theology, Department of Religious Studies (Jewish Studies)

Application deadline : 31.12.2020

The Department of Religious Studies (Jewish Studies) offers a position for a Postdoctoral researcher on the Qur’an and Aramaic Christianity (m/f/d, E 13 TV-L, 100%) preferably starting in April 2021. The fixed-term contract will be for 4 years. The position is part of the ERC project “The Qur’an as a Source for Late Antiquity (QaSLA)”.

The research project is funded by the European Research Council and directed by Prof. Dr. Holger Zellentin, at the University of Tübingen (Germany). QaSLA analyses the affinity between the Qur’an and known forms of Judaism and Christianity surrounding Arabia in order to sketch the religious landscape of the Arabian Peninsula at the turn of the seventh century C.E. Further details on the project can be found at

The successful candidate will participate in all academic aspects of the project. They are expected to author one monograph dedicated to their findings and collaborate in the preparation of the project’s other publications (both in English), as well as acting as a source of information and advice to other members of the project.

Holding a relevant doctorate, the successful candidate will possess a very good command of Syriac and detailed knowledge of the Late Antique East and West Syrian religious literary tradition. In addition, the candidate should have knowledge of Qur’anic Arabic and of the discipline of Qur’anic Studies. They must be able to work with further late antique Jewish and Christian primary sources relevant to the study of the Qur’an, preferably in the original. They must be able to undertake innovative research at the forefront of current scholarship and be able to manage their own academic research and associated activities. Previous experience of independent scholarly writing to a high level of quality is essential, as are the ability to contribute ideas for new research projects and excellent communication skills, such as writing for publication, present research proposals and results, and represent the research group at meetings. Familiarity with additional relevant classical languages (such as Ancient South Arabian, Coptic, Geʿez, Greek, Hebrew, or Safaitic) and with modern research languages, as well as knowledge of Arabic-language scholarship, are especially welcome.

The QaSLA team will be constituted of five research positions; two further position - for the Qur’an and Arabic and Ethiopic Christianity, respectively – are advertised separately. QaSLA is hosted by the Department of Religious Studies (Jewish Studies), which is part of the Faculty of Protestant Theology at the University of Tübingen and will involve close collaboration with other Tübingen Institutes, as well as with an international network of scholars. The University of Tübingen offers a vibrant scholarly community with local expertise in Jewish, Christian and Islamic studies located in the fields of history, religious studies, as well as Catholic, Protestant and Islamic theology.

We are building an international and diverse team of scholars. In addition to the key requirements laid out above, we are looking for team players that are eager to learn from others and contribute to an ongoing mutual exchange of research findings by all team members. The university seeks to raise the number of women in research and teaching and therefore urges qualified women to apply for these positions. Equally qualified applicants with disabilities will be given preference.

Interested applicants are asked to submit the following materials:

A cover letter briefly detailing their suggested contribution to the project (max. 800 words);
a curriculum vitae;
copies of two writing samples;
two recommendation letters (to be submitted directly).

All materials should be submitted to The deadline is December 31, 2020 (midnight, CET). We are looking to hold interviews (most likely to be held remotely) towards the end of January 2021. The preferred starting date for the project is April 2021 (with room for flexibility due to the current health situation). Please feel free to contact us with any relevant questions you may have, or to request a copy of the full project description.

The employment will be carried out by the central administration of the University of Tübingen.

Salary will be commensurate with university scale E 13 TV-L, which, in the year 2020, ranges from 49,910 € - 72,307 € per annum, depending on experience.


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

Another book of Maccabees? With drunken elephants!

HANUKKAH RELATED, SORT OF: 500 drunken elephants: The untold Hanukkah story with no Maccabees. A different kind of redemption from Greek tyranny (ZACK ROTHBART, Jerusalem Post). 3 Maccabees has no connection with the Maccabees and their revolt except the title. But it is another story (a legendary one) about the deliverance of the Jewish people from a Hellenistic king. Some PaleoJudaica posts on 3 Maccabees are here, here, here, and links.

There is, however, a tragic story about a charging elephant and one of the Maccabees.

For past posts on the historical King Ptolemy IV Philopater, see here, here, and here. Ptolemy IV is also appears under the code name "the king of the south" in Daniel 11:11.

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

The Scroll of Antiochus and the Maccabean Revolt

FOR HANUKKAH: Wherefore the Hanukkah scroll? Most Jews know only the legend about the miracle of the cruse of oil and very little about the actual military victories of the Maccabees (DAVID GOLINKIN, Jerusalem Post).
The answer is that, in truth, there is such a scroll, which was read in private or in public from the ninth century until today. It was written in Aramaic and subsequently translated into Hebrew, Arabic, Latin, German, English, Spanish, Persian, Marathi and other languages. It’s called “The Scroll of Antiochus” and many other names and is first mentioned by the Geonim in the 9th century. The scroll describes the Maccabean victories on the basis of a few stories from the Books of Maccabees and Shabbat 21b, with the addition of a number of legends without any historic basis.
Mr. Golinkin raises the idea of public reading of Megillat Antiochus on Hanukkah, but decides against it.
It would seem that there is no point in reviving the specific custom of reading the Scroll of Antiochus in public, because that work is legendary in nature and not a reliable source for the events of Hanukkah. But we do possess such a source for those events – the First Book of Maccabees – written in Hebrew in the Land of Israel by an eyewitness to the events described therein.
More on Megillat Antiochus is here. For more on 1 Maccabees, see here (immediately preceding post).

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

Hanukkah and 1-2 Maccabees

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Hanukkah, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and the Apocrypha (Jonathan Klawans). This is a really good, brief introduction to 1-2 Maccabees and how their story of the Maccabean Revolt provides background to the Festival of Hanukkah.

For some past PaleoJudaica posts on the Maccabean Revolt, which, like most wars and political events, is more complicated than it first looks, see the links collected here. Cross-file under Old Testament Apocrypha Watch.

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

Thursday, December 10, 2020

My SBL paper on Jewish and Greco-Roman Magic

SBL 2020 is happening fully online. I have just presented my paper in the following session:
Mysticism, Esotericism, and Gnosticism in Antiquity (S10-105)

S10-105 10:00am - 12:00pm Thu, Dec 10 (Eastern)

Commentary on Radcliffe Edmonds, Drawing Down the Moon: Magic in the Ancient Greco-Roman World

Here is the full text of my paper. If you are registered for SBL 2020, I understand that you can also access the video presentation up to 31 January 2021.

© 2020
James R. Davila, University of St. Andrews

In his wonderful book, Drawing Down the Moon: Magic in the Ancient Greco-Roman World, Radcliffe Edmonds provides us with a new etic framework for understanding ancient magic, but one steeped in the emic perspectives of the actual practitioners and clients as preserved in the literary, epigraphic, and archaeological evidence. Edmonds takes “magic” to be non-normative ritualized activity. It is marked by several features. The more these apply, the more clearly we are dealing with “magic.” It is viewed as either extraordinarily efficacious or entirely fraudulent. Its performance fails to fit into an approved cultural script. Its aims are culturally illicit. And its practitioners inhabit a deviant social location. The same rite may be considered forbidden magic or normative ritual activity depending on how the ancient audience evaluated it. In this paper I examine Edmonds’ findings in relation to the ancient Jewish magical and mystical traditions found mainly in Sefer HaRazim, “The Book of the Mysteries,” a late-antique ritual handbook written in Hebrew.

Sefer HaRazim survives in corrupt medieval Hebrew manuscripts, important Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic fragments from the Cairo Geniza, and a thirteenth-century Latin translation. Collation of all these sources produces a fairly good text. A prologue describes the origins and powers of the book. The core of the book is structured around a cosmology of seven heavenly firmaments. The first six are each staffed by a hierarchy of named angels. The practitioner deploys their powers using the rituals and incantations given for each hierarchy. A concluding hymn extols the glory of the seventh firmament and ends with a series of blessings on God.

The structure of the rites is generally familiar from the traditions Edmonds has collected. A typical working opens with a ritual that may involve a sacrifice or manipulation of materia. There is an invocation of the relevant angels in the hierarchy, either verbally or by inscribing them on a metal lamella or other medium. Most of the time the book provides the practitioner with the wording of a specific incantation by which to bid or adjure the angels and sometimes other divine beings. There is also often a banishing rite for closing the working.

The contents of Sefer HaRazim fit remarkably well into the categories by which Edmonds structures the chapters of his book. In the short time available, I will make some brief general observations about the contents of Sefer HaRazim, and then focus on a few areas of special interest. Most of the categories Edmonds finds in Greco-Roman magic are well represented. There are rites for cursing one’s enemies with various kinds of harm (§§42-54), including insomnia (§§137-40) and using a salamander to keep a bathhouse from heating (§§186-90). There are binding spells to influence powerful leaders, pacify them, or thwart their plans (e.g., §§65-73, 122-23, 132-34). There are also erotic restraining spells to bind the beloved to the client or the practitioner (§§93-94, 127-29), as well a spell to give the practitioner “alluring charm” (§§95-97). There is a generic healing spell (§§38-39) and specific rites for recovery from a stroke (§148-152) and curing a migraine or a cataract (§176). There are preventative protective rites to ward a city from dangerous animals or floods (§§155-156), to protect a woman in childbirth from evil spirits (§160), to give racehorses stamina and speed and protection from sorcerous enchantment (§§193-94), and to give the practitioner invulnerability in battle (§164) or an escort of phantasmal bodyguards (§§235-38). Curative protective rites deliver a friend from legal difficulties (§§167-68) and restore a demoted leader to his former position (§§171-73). There are divination rites using lecanomancy (§§58-62, §§223-28), necromancy (§§98-101), consultation of a spirit (§§102), and granting powers of mind reading and dream interpretation (§§109-14).

Sefer HaRazim hints at an interest in astrology in its erotic binding spells, which aim to bind the mazal (מזל) – apparently meaning here the “astrological sign” – of the client to that of the beloved. It also has considerable interest in the movements and placement of other celestial bodies such as the moon and the sun. But there is no indication of a systematic interest in or use of astrology.

Likewise, and despite the reputed importance of Maria the Jewess for the late-antique alchemical tradition, Sefer HaRazim shows little, if any, interest in alchemy. There is, to be sure, a rite to heat a stove in cold weather (§§143-45). It involves writing the names of the requisite angels on lumps of brimstone and adjuring it to ignite. But this shows no more than the use of sulphur in a magical rite to bring about a practical end.

The question of prayer in Sefer HaRazim is complicated. Most of the rituals include a spoken incantation in flowery language, addressing divine beings. Activation of many of the angelic levels requires animal sacrifice or an offering of food or spices. Ritual purification of the practitioner, and sometimes the client, is crucial. None of the rites takes place in a temple, although some require a specific physical setting, such as a beach or a running stream, or performance at a specific time, such as sunrise or a particular phase of the moon. Some, but not all, of the incantations are preceded by such rites. There is no use of nonsense words or nomina barbara, unless one count the long lists of angel names in the heavenly hierarchies.

Normally an incantation is preceded by an invocation of the angels from the relevant level of the relevant heaven, either verbally or by writing the names on a lamella or other object. The incantation is always introduced by the command to “recite” or “say” (אמר). It never addresses the God of Israel directly. Often it begins “I adjure you,” and addresses the angels, often adjuring them by God. But God is involved only for rites of healing, protection, divination, and theurgy. The incantation does not mention God if it involves a rite of cursing or binding, a rite of necromancy or spirit divination, or winning at the racetrack.

Some adjurations address beings besides angels. The necromancy spell (§99) adjures the “Ram-Bearer,” that is, the Greek god Hermes. One rite may adjure the planet Venus, named as the goddess Aphrodite (§§66-67). A rite for foreknowledge adjures the sun by the angels (§60). A rite to thwart the plans of the powerful adjures the moon to intercede with the angels (§133). A rite to restore a fallen leader to his former office adjures the moon by God (§172).

Remarkably, the only incantation labeled as a “prayer” that one should “pray” is a Greek prayer to the sun god Helios, which is transliterated into Hebrew letters. It appears in a theurgic working to be discussed below.

Some of the incantations are not phrased as adjurations. These usually still address angels, but open with other phrases such as “I seek from you,” “I deliver (so and so) over to you,” “I transmit (so and so) to you,” and the like. Most of these rites involve cursing or binding, although one involves healing. Some of the rites for protection or healing do not include the wording of a specific incantation.

What theology of prayer may we abstract from all these details? Unlike many earlier incantations and prayers in the Greco-Roman tradition, there is never a sense of reciprocal claims or trading favors in these incantations. Rather, they are in some ways typical of the indirect relationship to the divine which Edmonds finds in later prayers with more elaborate hierarchies (pp. 157-158). They call on lesser divinities to attend to concerns of mortals which have small importance in the divine scheme of things. They often invoke God’s authority as well. The texts often use biblical verses or themes to underline God’s power. That said, there is no mention of God in cases when the mortal’s request is morally dubious, beneath God’s dignity, and perhaps best not to draw to his attention.

It would be remiss of me to burden you with these generalities without giving you a taste of the richness and the high coefficent of weirdness of an actual ritual in Sefer HaRazim. Here I quote a full rite to be used to read the mind or interpret a dream of a king or another authority. It is excerpted from my forthcoming English translation of Sefer HaRazim.

(§110)Go out on the first day onto the seashore or on the bank of the river in the third hour of the night and be wrapped in a new robe. Do not eat any small cattle or anything that emits blood, and do not drink wine. And take myrrh and pure frankincense and put (them) on glowing coals of fire in a new earthenware vessel. Set your face toward the water and you shall invoke the name of the overseer with the name of the angels of the camp three times. You shall savor the sight of a pillar of fire (Exod 13:21) between heaven and earth. And recite this:
(§111)“I adjure you by Him who measured (the) waters in the hollow of His hand (Isa 40:12) and rebuked the waters so that they fled from before Him (Ps 114:3), and who made flitting spirits in the air, the attendants of His Presence, an igniting fire (Ps 104:4). He rebuked the sea and it dried up (Nah 1:4), and the rivers He made into a desert (Ps 107:33). In His name and by its letters I adjure you, and in the name of the seven angels of the seventh camp who attend on BW’L, that you make known to me what is in the heart of so-and-so son of so-and-so, and what is his wish, and what is the interpretation of his dream and what is his thought.”
And so in the second and the third night. You shall see that there shall be revealed to you a pillar of fire and cloud (Exod 14:24) over it in the likeness of a man. Ask it and it will tell you whatever you seek. (§112)If you seek to release it, throw some of the water to heaven three times, from the sea or from the river by which you are standing and recite under your breath:

(§113)“Unseen Lord BW’L, once sufficing us, perfect shield-bearer,* I release, I release (you). Sink down and return to your path.”

(§114)And recite this seven times. And do everything in purity and you shall succeed.

[*Italicized phrase in §113 is Greek transliterated into Hebrew letters.]

It remains to consider whether Sepher HaRazim, and late-antique Judaism more generally, made use of theurgy. Edmonds defines theurgy as “the art or practice of ritually creating a connection between the mortal, material world that is before one’s eyes and the unseen, immortal world of the gods” (p. 315). He finds an elite systematic theurgy of philosophers such as Iamblicus, which was intended mostly for spiritual development and even assimilation to the divine. He also finds in the Greek Magical Papyri a likewise elite priestly Egyptian theurgy that is less theoretical and more open to addressing practical concerns.

The fourth firmament section of Sefer HaRazim (§§201-16) consists of a theurgic ritual to view the sun in its vehicle by day or by night. The firmament contains the “bridal chamber of the sun.” One set of angels leads it on its daytime course. A second set leads it through the night. To see the sun in its chariot or bridal chamber by day, the practitioner undergoes a seven-day purification, culminating in self-fumigation with incense. The practitioner then recites a grandiloquent adjuration of the daytime angels seven times.

To see the sun going by the north wind at night, the practitioner undergoes a three-week purification, dresses in white clothing, and recites an adjuration of the night-time angels twenty-one times. (Perhaps seeing the sun at night requires three times more effort than during the day.) During the vision, the practitioner falls face down and recites the abovementioned Greek prayer to Helios (§§213-14). Both workings end with an adjuration of dismissal.

The purpose of these visionary workings is surprisingly mundane. The instructions indicate that when the daytime manifestation occurs, “you may ask it either for death or for life, either for good or for harm.” Likewise with the night vision, “ask everything that you wish.”

The rituals of the fourth firmament are best paralleled by some of the theurgic rites in the Greek Magical Papyri. There is no enchantment of an artifact, such as a ring or a statue. It does not involve the recruitment of a divine personal assistant. But they are much akin to rites that summon visions of the sun-manifestation of Apollo (PGM III.187-262; IV.930-1114). These rites too have the mundane goal of divination or answering questions about the future.

The Hekhalot literature also describes numerous rites of visionary theurgy. A single example, briefly told, must suffice here. The Hekhalot Zutarti gives instructions for the ritual ascent (“descent”) to God’s throne (§§413-19). The practitioner must display a series of seal-rings, each engraved with a divine name, to an ascending hierarchy of angels in charge of the seven “palaces” leading to the divine throne room. Each angel, thus pacified, conducts him to the next palace. The seventh angel seats him on the lap of God, whose names were found on the seven seals. Then the practitioner is told, “Make your request,” filled out with an invocation based on the description of the beloved in Song of Songs 5. The rite seems to involve two aims known from the other theurgic texts: the elite one of a temporary divinization of the practitioner via enthronement in heaven and the practical invitation to ask for whatever he wants.

We see that Sefer haRazim fits comfortably within the late-antique end of Edmonds’s paradigm for ancient magic. I have not had space to comment at length on its parallels with the Greek Magical Papyri, but they are extensive. Yet Sefer HaRazim is clearly a Jewish work. How has the author adapted Greco-Roman magical practices into a Jewish context? The prologue claims extraordinary efficacy for its workings. Its users may explore the seven heavens, attain mastery over their angelic inhabitants, inflict harm and provide healing, dominate demons, and divine the future. At the same time, it strives to normalize the contents by placing them in a positive cultural context and providing “celebrity endorsements.” An angel revealed the book to Noah. He passed it on to Abraham. The patriarchs transmitted it to Moses, Joshua, the elders, the sages, and finally to King Solomon. The body of the book is structured around a cosmology of seven heavens with a hierarchy of angels in each. The angels bear Hebrew or Hebrew-sounding names and are frequently described in terms that echo biblical language. Control of these angels is the key to activating the book’s spells. To be sure, the sun, the moon, the astrological signs, Helios, Hermes, and Aphrodite have parts to play, especially when the spells involve dirty work best not associated with the angels or the God of Israel. The more benign spells frequently reinforce the adjuration of angels by invoking the authority of God. The book is full of quotations from and allusions to the Hebrew Bible as illustrated by the passage quoted above. Some of these references to scripture do show an astonishing disregard for their biblical context. A striking example is two introductory references to a necromantic rite which label its purpose as “to consult with a ghost” (לשאל באוב; §§90, 98). This phrase is lifted out of 1 Chronicles 10:13, which tells us that King Saul died for his unfaithfulness in carrying out this deed!

The composers of the spells were highly literate and steeped in the Jewish scriptures. They wrote in a fluent late-antique Hebrew. They drew freely on the Hebrew Bible and on non-Jewish magical traditions best paralleled by the Greco-Egyptian rites in the Greek Magical Papyri. They show little familiarity with rabbinic traditions, yet hint at considerable respect for the rabbis. The angels of the sixth stage of the second firmament, we are told, “are fearsome as sages of the academy” (נוראים כחכמי ישיבה; §147). The writers and editor of Sefer HaRazim strove to place their work in the context of traditional Judaism. I think they would have protested that their work was not “magic” in any sense prohibited by the scriptures. The rabbinic sages would have taken a dim view of the necromantic rites and the invocation of pagan gods. To what degree they would have adopted a live-and-let-live attitude to some of the other resources in the book I leave for experts in Rabbinics to decide.

To conclude, Radcliffe Edmonds has synthesized a vast corpus of primary evidence to give us a thorough reassessment of the concept of magic in Greco-Roman antiquity. I have applied his new paradigm to another magical tradition on the periphery of the Greco-Roman arena. We find the Jewish rites of Sefer HaRazim fit well within his paradigm, while filtering the traditions through a Jewish cultural perspective. This indicates that his paradigm is of considerable value not only for study of Greco-Roman magic, but also for magical traditions in other regions and cultures in the ancient world.

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

Hanukkah 2020

HAPPY HANUKKAH (CHANUKKAH, CHANUKAH) to all those celebrating! The eight-day festival begins tonight at sundown.

Last year's Hanukkah post is here. It links to past Hanukkah posts with additional historical background. For PaleoJudaica posts in the last year that relate to Hanukkah, see here, here, here, and here.

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

An early inscribed Iron Age seal (updated)

ICONOGRAPHY AND EPIGRAPHY: 2,300-year-old Iron Age seal found in Israeli market. Researchers revealed that a seal sold in a market for a couple of shekels to a professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) is in fact the earliest seal discovered in Israel (Hannah Brown, Jerusalem Post).

First, this is a remarkable object. To be clear, it is a seal impression in clay (a bulla), not a stone seal. It turned up in a Bedouin market in Beer Sheva about half a century ago.

Second, it is therefore unprovenanced, which should make us cautious. But the article assures us that the seal has been carefully authenticated. I accept it as geniune, pending evaluation by iconographers and epigraphers when the speciaist articles come out.

But, third, 2300 years ago was around 300 BCE. This was in the Hellenistic period, not long after the time of Alexander the Great. The Iron Age had been over for centuries. I see a number of articles giving this date, so presumably it was in a press release that I haven't seen.

Obviously, there is a mistake somewhere. If it is really the earliest Iron Age seal or seal impression, it must be pretty old. Some clay bullae from the tenth century BCE were excavated in Israel a few years ago. And a stone seal also dated to the tenth century was found by the Temple Mount Sifting Project in 2015.

But perhaps the article means that it is the earliest inscribed seal (impression). The earliest inscribed Northwest Semitic seals I know of are from the late ninth to eighth centuries BCE. So perhaps the correct date for the seal is 2800 years old? That's my speculation. Don't repeat it as correct without confirmation. And check with an epigrapher like Christopher Rollston about the date of the brief inscription.

There is confusion somewhere. Can any readers shed light on the actual date of this object?

Fourth, the JP article oddly translates the inscription (and the corresponding reading on a seal from Megiddo) as "to hear." No. It means "Belonging to Shema" (לשמע). The word Shema is a name (cf. 1 Chronicles 2:43-44, 5:8, 11:44 etc.). Perhaps a misunderstanding of a Hebrew press release?

I look forward to the forthcoming articles in Eretz Israel and the Israel Exporation Journal, which doubtless will clear these matters up.

I have spent too much time on this post. I have to do other things now.

But I should also mention that I am giving my SBL paper today: "Magic in the Ancient Greco-Roman and Ancient Jewish Worlds." It is in the Mysticism, Esotericism, and Gnosticism in Antiquity session (S10-105) which begins at 10:00 am U.S. Eastern Standard Time.

If you are registered for the SBL conference, please come join us at the Zoom session.

I will also be posting the paper on PaleoJudaica after I present it. So come back later today if you want to read it.

UPDATE: Amanda Borschel-Dan e-mails to alert me to her Times of Israel article: 2,700 years ago, tiny clay piece sealed deal for Bible’s King Jeroboam II. Bought for a pittance at a market in 1980, 8th century BCE paleo-Hebrew inscription is the earliest writing found on a clay seal impression in the Land of Israel, study shows. For some reason it didn't come up in my searches this morning. It gives much more detail and background. The bulla reportedly dates to the first half of the eighth century BCE (the reign of Jeroboam II). So pretty much what I thought. That makes it a very early inscribed bulla, at least among the earliest.

Assuming it's genuine. Let's see what the epigraphers and iconographers say.

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

New translation of Ephrem's Metrical Discourses on Faith (Peeters)

Metrical Discourses on Faith by the Blessed Mar Ephrem
Translated, with Introduction and Notes

Eastern Christian Texts in Translation, 4

Hayes A.

YEAR: 2020
ISBN: 9789042939349
E-ISBN: 9789042939356
PAGES: LII-102 p.
PRICE: 38 euro

SUMMARY:v Ephrem the Syrian’s six Metrical Discourses on Faith reflect on issues central to or arising from the Arian controversy as it manifested in the Syriac-speaking churches: the unique status of the Son of God, the distinction between creator and creation, and especially the problem of human audacity in the quest for knowledge of God. Like Ephrem’s other works, these discourses are replete with biblical language and brimming with creative symbolism. However, being less terse and allusive in style than many of his other poems, they also serve as a crucial exposition of some of his most fundamental ideas and a relatively accessible introduction to his thought as a whole. This is the first complete English translation of the whole collection, accompanied by a detailed introduction and copious explanatory notes.

Cross-file under Syriac Watch.

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

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Review of Stanley, A Rooster for Asklepios

READING ACTS: Book Review: Christopher D. Stanley, A Rooster for Asklepios.
Stanley, Christopher D. A Rooster for Asklepios. Buffalo, NY: NFB Publishing, 2020. 520 pp. Pb. $25.00; Kindle $9.99
An historical novel by a biblical scholar. For another, see here (immediately preceding post).

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

Witherington & Myers, Paul of Arabia (Wipf & Stock)

Paul of Arabia
The Hidden Years of the Apostle to the Gentiles

BY Ben Witherington, III, Jason A. Myers

Imprint: Cascade Books
Category: Biblical Studies

ISBN: 9781532698224
Pages: 192
Publication Date: 11/19/2020
Retail Price: $27.00
Web Price: $21.60

ISBN: 9781532698224
Format: epubv Publication Date: 11/19/2020v Retail Price: $27.00
Web Price: $21.60


What does a person do when his life has just taken a complete U-turn? This was the question Paul faced after his conversion on Damascus Road. In the end, he decided to go to Petran Arabia, where he stayed for more than two years. In this exercise in reconstructing what Paul's time in Petra would have been like, Ben Witherington recreates the scene of various interesting possible episodes in Paul's life, about which the New Testament says little, filling in the gaps of "the hidden years." Who would he have met in Petra? Would he have practiced his leather working trade? Might he have gotten married? What did he do to raise the ire of King Aretas IV, and cause him to be chased all the way back to Damascus and out again? Why did he wait so long to go up to Jerusalem and visit with Peter? This and much more is addressed in this fast-paced novella, with sidebars explaining the context of the events in the story.

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Burrell on the Cushites

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: The Cushites: Race and Representation in the Hebrew Bible. (Kevin Burrell).

I nored Professor Burrell's 2020 book on the same subject here. For more on Taharqo, "king of Ethiopia," and the siege of Jerusalem when Hezekiah was king, see here and links.

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Entanglements at Timnah

DR. MAHRI LEONARD-FLECKMAN: Judah Meets Tamar “On the Road to Timnah” (
Samson also meets a woman of questionable status in ​Timnah. What is it about Timnah that makes it an appropriate choice for such stories?

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Tuesday, December 08, 2020

More menorah graffiti in a priestly (?) cave

ICONOGRAPHY AND EPIGRAPHY: Rare Second Temple menorah drawing from biblical Maccabean site brought to light. Hitherto unpublished 2,000-year-old engraved menorah, forgotten in archives for 40 years, shores up hypothesis that ancient Michmas was a priestly settlement, study says (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel). As usual, Amanda digs deeper than the earlier media reports and provides lots of background and additional information.

Two new points. First, the menorah engraving itself has not been relocated. The articles and reports are based on photographs. The engraving may be gone now.

Second is the mention of another quite important rediscovery:

This newly rediscovered menorah and mysterious letter join another 1980s find of a hideaway cave, in the nearby el-’Aliliyat region. There, archaeologists discovered a mikveh (ritual bath), a cistern, and two menorahs drawn with a charcoaled stick, one crowned by an Aramaic/Hebrew inscription.
Dr. Dvir Raviv and an archaeological team have revisited the cave. There are two photographs.

Cross-file under Aramaic Watch and Hanukkah is Coming. Background here.

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Review of "... Revelation: Roasting Rome"

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Humor, Resistance, and Jewish Cultural Persistence (Megan Remington).
Sarah Emanuel. Humor, Resistance, and Jewish Cultural Persistence in the Book of Revelation: Roasting Rome. Cambridge University Press, 2020.

... The Book of Revelation, Emanuel concludes, employs humor as a tool of Jewish persistence and aims to counteract oppression by satirizing central Roman figures, while simultaneously becoming a sort of mirror of Rome's own violent methods and mimicking the oppressor's "imperial gaze." In the midst of its often grotesque catachresis — “humiliating Rome via Rome’s own tactics” (16) — Emanuel maintains the view that the Apocalypse was composed as a response to trauma under imperialistic tyranny and encourages readers to recognize the potential of its reparative work. ...

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Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day 2020

HERE WE GO AGAIN: Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day. Have fun, but be careful. This is 2020. Anything can happen.

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

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

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More on that ancient gaming die

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Ancient Game Die Discovered. From the Second Temple Period, the cube was found at Khirbet Kfar Mor in Beit El (Jonathan Laden). With background on the archaeology of ancient gaming.

I noted the recent discovery of this die, with commentary and links, here.

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Monday, December 07, 2020

On a Hasmonean-era menorah graffito

HANUKKAH IS COMING: Rare menorah engraving dates back to Hasmonean era. The menorah was discovered in the 1980s in Judea and Samaria (Hannah Brown, Jerusalem Post).
A rare graffito of a seven-branched menorah found many years ago at the entrance to a tomb on the outskirts of the Arab village of Mukhmas, northeast of Jerusalem, has been highlighted by Dr. Dvir Raviv of Bar-Ilan University's Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, in a paper published in the archaeology and history journal In the Highland's Depth, released just in time for Hanukkah.


For other discoveries of ancient menorah graffiti see here and links.

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Becking, Identity in Persian Egypt

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Identity in Persian Egypt. Notice of a New Book: Becking, Bob. 2020. Identity in Persian Egypt: The Fate of the Yehudite Community of Elephantine. Pennsylvania: Eisenbrauns.

For many past posts on the Judeans of Elephanitine Island, Egypt, see here and links and, arguably, here and links.

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Zoom launch of the Manuscript Hunters website

ON 16 DECEMBER 2020: Manuscript Hunters Website Launch.
We cordially invite you to join us for the live launch of a brand new website, created through industrious research and splendid illustrations by several fine students (with guidance from some foolhardy instructors), titled:
During the course of the 17th-19th centuries, European scholars and adventurers set off for the Middle East in search of precious manuscripts in Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, Syriac, and other languages. Through much intrigue and sometimes at great personal cost, they obtained (with or without permission) the treasures that become the cornerstone of many grand archives. At stake were the pride of empires and nations, the personal reputations of the scholars, and the reliability of sacred texts.

Tune in for an hour of indulging in the scandals of manuscript acquisition and seeing the illustrations drawn especially to illustrate these bizarre scenes. Hear the journeys our research has taken, but be warned: we've discovered many more questions than answers. And most importantly, be there when we reveal the web address of the new site ...

Follow the link for registration information.

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Orlov, Yetzer Anthropologies in the Apocalypse of Abraham

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Yetzer Anthropologies in the Apocalypse of Abraham. 2020. Approx. 210 pages. forthcoming in November. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 438. 99,00 € including VAT. eBook PDF ISBN 978-3-16-159458-8. DOI 10.1628/978-3-16-159458-8.
Published in English.
In this book, Andrei A. Orlov examines the imagery of »inclination« or yetzer found in the Apocalypse of Abraham. He argues that the text operates with several yetzer anthropologies, some of which are reminiscent of early biblical models, while others are similar to later rabbinic notions. Although the author focuses on the traditions found in the Apocalypse of Abraham, he also treats the evolution of the yetzer symbolism in its full historical and interpretive complexity through a broad variety of Jewish and Christian sources, from the creational narratives of the Hebrew Bible to later rabbinic testimonies. He further argues that a close analysis of the yetzer anthropologies found in the Apocalypse of Abraham challenges previous scholarly hypotheses that yetzer was only sexualized and gendered for the first time in post-Amoraic sources.

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Sunday, December 06, 2020

Israel is #1 for Oddities of the Underground

RECOGNITION: Israel wins international tunneling award for archaeology. Israel's project is very archaeologically focused, especially given the rich history that lies beneath the surface of much of the country, especially in cities thousands of years old (Jerusalem Post).
The Israel's underground project won international recognition at the International Tunneling and Underground Space Association (ITA) Awards, specifically taking hope top prize in the Oddities of the Underground category, due to its creativity and innovation in archaeology.


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ANE-3 launched this week at
The post is by Chuck Jones, who was the founder of ANE 1. I was one of the first members.

For more on the original ANE list see here, here, and here. I am glad to see the new one starting up.

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Orlov, Demons of Change

Demons of Change
Antagonism and Apotheosis in Jewish and Christian Apocalypticism

Andrei A. Orlov - Author

Price: $95.00
Hardcover - 278 pages

Release Date: December 2020
ISBN13: 978-1-4384-8089-3


Demonstrates how conflict between a human adept as the divine warrior and an otherworldly antagonist plays a key role in early Jewish and Christian apocalyptic accounts.

Antagonistic imagery has a striking presence in apocalyptic writings of Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity. In these visionary accounts, the role of the divine warrior fighting against demonic forces is often taken by a human adept, who becomes exalted and glorified as a result of his encounter with otherworldly antagonists, serving as a prerequisite for his final apotheosis. Demons of Change examines the meaning of these interactions for the transformations of the hero and antihero of early Jewish and Christian apocalyptic accounts. Andrei A. Orlov traces the roots of this trope to ancient Near Eastern traditions, paying special attention to the significance of conflict in the adept’s ascent and apotheosis and to the formative value of these developments for Jewish and Christian martyrological accounts. This antagonistic tension plays a critical role both for the exaltation of the protagonist and for the demotion of his opponent. Orlov treats the motif of the hero’s apotheosis in the midst of conflict in its full historical and interpretive complexity using a broad variety of Jewish sources, from the creational narratives of the Hebrew Bible to later Jewish mystical testimonies.

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McCaulley, Sharing in the Son’s Inheritance

Sharing in the Son’s Inheritance
Davidic Messianism and Paul’s Worldwide Interpretation of the Abrahamic Land Promise in Galatians

By: Esau McCaulley

Published: 12-24-2020
Format: Paperback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 240
ISBN: 9780567700292
Imprint: T&T Clark
Series: The Library of New Testament Studies
Dimensions: 6 1/8" x 9 1/4"
List price: $39.95
Online price: $35.96
Save $4.00 (10%)

About Sharing in the Son’s Inheritance

This book explores the link between Paul's belief that Jesus is Israel's Messiah, and his interpretation of the Abrahamic Land Promise in Galatians. Countering claims that Paul replaces the Promised Land with the gift of the Spirit or salvation, Esau McCaulley argues that Paul expands this inheritance to include the whole earth; believing that, as the seed of Abraham and David, Jesus is entitled to the entire world as his inheritance and kingdom.

McCaulley argues that scholars have neglected Paul's expanded interpretation of the inheritance of the earth, rarely appreciate the role that messianism plays in Galatians, and fail to acknowledge that Second Temple authors often portrayed royal and messianic figures as God's means of fulfilling the promises made to Abraham and Israel, via the establishment of kingdoms. Through a comparison of texts from the Pseudepigrapha, apocrypha, and the Dead Sea Scrolls with Galatians 3:1–4:7, 5:21, McCaulley argues Paul's interpretation of Jesus's death is a manifestation of Second Temple messianism because it ends the covenant curses outlined in Deuteronomy and begins the restoration of the inheritance to Abraham's offspring through the establishment of Jesus's worldwide kingdom; he concludes that Paul's interpretation of the Abrahamic inheritance is inseparable from his belief that Jesus is Israel's Messiah.

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