Saturday, May 22, 2021

Koller, Unbinding Isaac (JPS)

RECENT BOOK FROM THE JEWISH PUBLICATION SOCIETY:
Unbinding Isaac
The Significance of the Akedah for Modern Jewish Thought

Aaron Koller

264 pages
3 illustrations, 2 indexes

Hardcover
July 2020
978-0-8276-1473-4
$40.00

eBook (PDF)
(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)
July 2020
978-0-8276-1845-9v $40.00

eBook (EPUB)
(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)
July 2020
978-0-8276-1843-5
$40.00

About the Book

Unbinding Isaac takes readers on a trek of discovery for our times into the binding of Isaac story. Nineteenth-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard viewed the story as teaching suspension of ethics for the sake of faith, and subsequent Jewish thinkers developed this idea as a cornerstone of their religious worldview. Aaron Koller examines and critiques Kierkegaard’s perspective—and later incarnations of it—on textual, religious, and ethical grounds. He also explores the current of criticism of Abraham in Jewish thought, from ancient poems and midrashim to contemporary Israel narratives, as well as Jewish responses to the Akedah over the generations.

Finally, bringing together these multiple strands of thought—along with modern knowledge of human sacrifice in the Phoenician world—Koller offers an original reading of the Akedah. The biblical God would like to want child sacrifice—because it is in fact a remarkable display of devotion—but more than that, he does not want child sacrifice because it would violate the child’s autonomy. Thus, the high point in the drama is not the binding of Isaac but the moment when Abraham is told to release him. The Torah does not allow child sacrifice, though by contrast, some of Israel’s neighbors viewed it as a religiously inspiring act. The binding of Isaac teaches us that an authentically religious act cannot be done through the harm of another human being.

For a related essay by Professor Koller, see here. For many other PaleoJudaica posts on the Aqedah, its text, and its interpretation, start here and follow the links.

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

Rubenstein (ed.), Studies in Rabbinic Narrative, Volume 1 (SBL)

NEW BOOK FROM SBL PRESS:
Studies in Rabbinic Narrative, Volume 1

Jeffrey L. Rubenstein, editor

ISBN 9781951498795
Volume BJS 367
Status Available
Publication Date March 2021

Paperback
$29.00

Hardback
$82.00

eBook
$29.00

Explore new theoretical tools and lines of analysis of rabbinic stories

Rabbinic literature includes hundreds of stories and brief narrative traditions. These narrative traditions often take the form of biographical anecdotes that recount a deed or event in the life of a rabbi. Modern scholars consider these narratives as didactic fictions—stories used to teach lessons, promote rabbinic values, and grapple with the tensions and conflicts of rabbinic life. Using methods drawn from literary and cultural theory, including feminist, structuralist, Marxist, and psychoanalytic methods, contributors analyze narratives from the Babylonian Talmud, midrash, Mishnah, and other rabbinic compilations to shed light on their meanings, functions, and narrative art. Contributors include Julia Watts Belser, Beth Berkowitz, Dov Kahane, Jane L. Kanarek, Tzvi Novick, James Adam Redfield, Jay Rovner, Jeffrey L. Rubenstein, Zvi Septimus, Dov Weiss, and Barry Scott Wimpfheimer.

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

Cohen, Rashi, Biblical Interpretation, and Latin Learning in Medieval Europe (CUP)

NEW BOOK FROM CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS:
Rashi, Biblical Interpretation, and Latin Learning in Medieval Europe
A New Perspective on an Exegetical Revolution

AUTHOR: Mordechai Z. Cohen, Yeshiva University, New York
DATE PUBLISHED: April 2021
AVAILABILITY: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
FORMAT: Adobe eBook Reader
ISBN: 9781108560207

$ 80.00 USD Adobe eBook Reader

Description

In this volume, Mordechai Z. Cohen explores the interpretive methods of Rashi of Troyes (1040–1105), the most influential Jewish Bible commentator of all time. By elucidating the 'plain sense' (peshat) of Scripture, together with critically selected midrashic interpretations, Rashi created an approach that was revolutionary in the talmudically-oriented Ashkenazic milieu. Cohen contextualizes Rashi's commentaries by examining influences from other centers of Jewish learning in Muslim Spain and Byzantine lands. He also opens new scholarly paths by comparing Rashi's methods with trends in Latin learning reflected in the Psalms commentary of his older contemporary, Saint Bruno the Carthusian (1030–1101). Drawing upon the Latin tradition of enarratio poetarum ('interpreting the poets'), Bruno applied a grammatical interpretive method and incorporated patristic commentary selectively, a parallel that Cohen uses to illuminate Rashi's exegetical values. Cohen thereby brings to light the novel literary conceptions manifested by Rashi and his key students, Josef Qara and Rashbam.

  • Showcases a unique discovery about Rashi, the greatest Jewish Bible interpreter of all time
  • Offers a new perspective on the northern French 'school of Peshat' that was carried on by Rashi's students, Josef Qara and Rashbam
  • Compares Jewish and Christian Bible exegesis for a new inter-religious understanding of the Bible

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Review of Habertal, Nahmanides: Law and Mysticism

MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS: Beyond the Era of the Torah? Nathaniel Berman on Moshe Halbertal.
Moshe Halbertal, Nahmanides: Law and Mysticism. Trans. Daniel Tabak. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 464, $55.00 (hardback)
Excerpt:
Those familiar with the basic structure of kabbalistic mythology from more well-known texts such as the Zohar may be surprised to learn how much of that structure is already present in Nahmanides—even if marked by many crucial differences, as well as expressed in a radically dissimilar literary form. In short, no reader can come away from Halbertal’s study without an understanding of Nahmanides’ vital importance to Jewish thought and spirituality at a crucial turning-point in Jewish history—as well as his unique contributions to perennial themes in the history of kabbalah and Jewish religiosity as a whole.
For PaleoJudaica posts on the Zohar, start here and follow the links.

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

Friday, May 21, 2021

On the coins of Sepphoris

NUMISMATICS: David Hendin – Coins Tell the Story of Ancient Sepphoris (Coin Week).
Over the years I have spent three seasons as numismatist at excavations of Sepphoris in the Galilee, sponsored by Duke and Hebrew Universities. This is one of the reasons I’ve become so fond of the city the ancient historian Josephus dubbed “the ornament of all Galilee.”

The coins of Sepphoris were struck for only about 200 years (except for the brief Umayyad period some 500 years after the last Roman provincial coins were struck). During the period they were being struck, however, the coins of Sepphoris preserved a fascinating historic portrait of the city.

[...]

For more on the archaeology of Sepphoris (Zipori//Tzipori/Tzippori/Zippori), start here and follow the links.

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

Review of Urban disasters and the Roman imagination (ed. Closs & Keitel)

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Urban disasters and the Roman imagination.
Virginia Closs, Elizabeth Keitel, Urban disasters and the Roman imagination. Trends in classics - supplementary volumes, 104. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2020. Pp. xi, 286. ISBN 9783110674699 $149.99.

Review by
Saskia Kerschbaum, Universität Frankfurt. kerschbaum@em.uni-frankfurt.de

Of notable interest to PaleoJudaica is H.H. Chapman's article, "Josephus’ Memory of Jerusalem: A Study in Urban Disaster." There are also articles dealing with the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the eruption of Vesuvius and on the burning of Rome under Nero.

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

The latest on Father Columba Stewart

THE MANUSCRIPTS MAN: A MISSION FOR FATHER STEWART. From Kathmandu to Timbuktu, an American monk travels the world to safeguard invaluable treasure—ancient documents that tell humanity’s story (JOSHUA HAMMER, Smithsonian Magazine).
His adventures certainly defy the conventional notion of monastic life as sedentary and quiet. “It’s a weird situation,” Stewart acknowledges in a Zoom call as he sits at his desk in the library in Minnesota during an enforced break from travel during the pandemic. “Sometimes I feel like a war correspondent. Other times I’m cast in a religious role. In northern Iraq, I’ll be in my habit at Mass with 1,500 worshipers chanting in Aramaic. Then I’ll be going around in a tank.” Mementos on his shelves provide glimpses of his globe-trotting life: a United Nations pass from Timbuktu, photos of Stewart with Pope Francis, a Hezbollah charm bracelet.
Father Columba Stewart is well known to my regular readers as one of the Manuscripts Men who saved countless Syriac and other manuscripts from the ravages of ISIS during the war some years ago. As you will see, he has not been idle since. Not even in the pandemic. For more on Father Stewart and on the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library (HMML), see here, here, and here and links.

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

The importance of provenance

MAPPING MUSEUM COLLECTIONS: Provenance: How an object's origin can facilitate authentic, inclusive storytelling (University of Missouri in Phys.org).
With a three-year grant, [assistant professor Sarah] Buchanan is investigating ways to conduct provenance research more efficiently, inclusively and transparently, both on MU's campus and abroad. In a recently published study, Buchanan collaborated with Sara Mohr, a doctoral student at Brown University who reads and translates Assyrian, to create an online bibliography and corresponding map of ancient tablets located in universities throughout the United States, including six tablets inside MU's Ellis Library.
For more on the probably mostly fake post-2002 Dead Sea Scroll-like fragments, see here and links and here. The provenance (history of acquistion and past and current locations) of artifacts are and have been important in many stories of ancient and supposedly ancient objects, including the Gospel of Jesus' Wife and (currently) the Sappho papyri and the Oxford missing papyri scandal. For all three, see here.

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

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Book event essays (1): Feldman, The Story of Sacrifice

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Procedure as Imaginative Art (Mira Balberg).
The book powerfully makes a claim, to which I am likewise very committed in my own work, that when set in a particular context, instructions, procedures, and lists – I will return to lists later – can be read not only as impressive literary accomplishments but also as mines for intellectual history.
An AJR tweet explains the context of this essay:
This week and next, we are sharing the papers from a book event for Dr. Liane Feldman's "The Story of Sacrifice: Ritual and Narrative in the Priestly Source." Today's contribution, "Procedure as Imaginative Art," is written by Dr. Mira Balberg.
A summary of the PhD dissertation that is the basis of the book is here. For more on the book itself (Mohr Siebeck, 2020), see here.

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

Seeking the Seleucid Laodicea Temple

ARCHAEOLOGY: Archaeologists make final attempt to unearth Seleucid temple (Tehran Times).
TEHRAN – A team of Iranian archaeologists has commenced its final attempt to possibly unearth the ruins of the Seleucid Laodicea Temple believed to be buried under the modern town of Nahavand in Hamedan province, west-central Iran.

[...]

In 1943, archaeologists discovered an 85x36 centimeter ancient inscription of 30 lines written in Greek calling on the people of Nahavand to obey the laws of the government. The inscription indicated the existence of the Laodicea Temple, which had been built by the Seleucid king who ruled Asia Minor, Antiochus III the Great (223-187 BC), for his wife Queen Laodicea.

HT Rogue Classicism.

Antiochus III appears in Daniel 11:11-19 as "the king of the south." He didn't just build temples. He also plundered them. He died while on a campaign in Iran. He was plundering a temple of Bel in Elymais (modern day Kuzestan province), south of Nahavand. Daniel 11:19 alludes to his end.

For more on Antiochus III, see here and here. For more on the Seleucid era and its importance for biblical and ancient Jewish studies, start here and follow the many links.

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

Sigvartsen, Afterlife and Resurrection Beliefs in the Apocrypha and Apocalyptic Literature (T&T Clark)

NEW BOOK FROM BLOOMSBURY (T&T CLARK):
Afterlife and Resurrection Beliefs in the Apocrypha and Apocalyptic Literature

By: Jan Age Sigvartsen

Published: 05-20-2021
Format: Paperback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 328
ISBN: 9780567700636
Imprint: T&T Clark
Series: Jewish and Christian Texts
Dimensions: 6 1/8" x 9 1/4"
List price: $39.95
Online price: $35.96
Save $4.00 (10%)

Paperback
$35.96 Hardback
$121.50
EPUB/MOBI eBook (Watermarked)
$28.76 PDF eBook (Watermarked)v $28.76

About Afterlife and Resurrection Beliefs in the Apocrypha and Apocalyptic Literature

Jan A. Sigvartsen seeks to examine the immense interest in life after death, and speculation about the fates awaiting both the righteous and the wicked, that proliferated in the Second Temple period. In this volume Sigvartsen explores the Apocrypha and the apocalyptic writings in the Pseudepigrapha. He identifies the numerous afterlife and resurrection beliefs and presents an analysis that enables readers to easily understand and compare the wide-ranging beliefs regarding the afterlife that these texts hold.

A careful reading of these resurrection passages, including passages appearing in Sirach, Maccabees, the Sibylline Oracles and the Ezra texts, reveals that most of the distinct views on life-after-death, regardless of their complexity, show little evidence of systematic development relational to one another, and are often supported by several key passages or shared motifs from texts that later became a part of the TaNaKh. Sigvartsen also highlights the factors that may have influenced the development of so many different resurrection beliefs; including anthropology, the nature of the soul, the scope of the resurrection, the number and function of judgments, and the final destination of the righteous and the wicked. Sigvartsen's study provides a deeper understanding of how the “TaNaKh” was read by different communities during this important period, and the role it played in the development of the resurrection belief – a central article of faith in both Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism.

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Rabin, The Biblical Hero (JPS)

RECENT BOOK FROM THE JEWISH PUBLICATION SOCIETY:
The Biblical Hero
Portraits in Nobility and Fallibility

Elliott Rabin

336 pages
2 Indexes

Paperback
March 2020
978-0-8276-1324-9
$29.95

eBook (EPUB)
(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)
March 2020
978-0-8276-1834-3
$29.95

eBook (PDF)
(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)
March 2020
978-0-8276-1836-7
$29.95

About the Book

Approaching the Bible in an original way—comparing biblical heroes to heroes in world literature—Elliott Rabin addresses a core biblical question: What is the Bible telling us about what it means to be a hero?

Focusing on the lives of six major biblical characters—Moses, Samson, David, Esther, Abraham, and Jacob—Rabin examines their resemblance to hero types found in (and perhaps drawn from) other literatures and analyzes why the Bible depicts its heroes less gloriously than do the texts of other cultures:

  • Moses founds the nation of Israel—and is short-tempered and weak-armed.
  • Samson, arrogant and unhinged, can kill a thousand enemies with his bare hands.
  • David establishes a centralized, unified, triumphal government—through pretense and self-deception.
  • Esther saves her people but marries a murderous, misogynist king.
  • Abraham's relationships are wracked with tension.
  • Jacob fathers twelve tribes—and wins his inheritance through deceit.
In the end, is God the real hero? Or is God too removed from human constraints to even be called a “hero”?

Ultimately, Rabin excavates how the Bible’s unique perspective on heroism can address our own deep-seated need for human-scale heroes.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

St. Plato's palimpsest

ANTIGONE: PALIMPSESTS: HOW RECYCLED BOOKS PRESERVE LOST TREASURES. HT Rogue Classicism.

Alexandra Trachsel introduces reader to palimpsests – manuscripts that have been erased and reused for a new text. Scholars are naturally interested in getting at the erased text as well as the overlaid one.

She uses as an example Taylor-Schechter Genizah Ms. 17. The overlying text consists of Hebrew liturgical poems (piyyuṭim). The erased underlying text comes from the Passion of St Plato of Ancyra. (No relation to the philosopher Plato of Athens.)

If the paleographic dating of the underlying text to the late fifth or early sixth century is correct, this is the earliest manuscript from the Cairo Geniza that I have encountered. The oldest I knew of before was the Askhar/London fragments of Exodus, from about 700 CE.

For many PaleoJudaica posts on palimpsests, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and follow the links. For posts on the Cairo Geniza and its manuscripts, see here, here, here, here, here, and follow the many links.

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

Cataldo (ed.), Imagined Worlds and Constructed Differences in the Hebrew Bible (T&T Clark)

NEW BOOK FROM BLOOMSBURY/T&T CLARK:
Imagined Worlds and Constructed Differences in the Hebrew Bible

Editor(s): Jeremiah W. Cataldo

Published: 04-22-2021
Format: Paperback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 200
ISBN: 9780567700377
Imprint: T&T Clark
Series: The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies
Dimensions: 6 1/8" x 9 1/4"
List price: $39.95
Online price: $35.96
Save $4.00 (10%)

About Imagined Worlds and Constructed Differences in the Hebrew Bible

The purpose of this volume is twofold: to introduce readers to the study of cultural memory and identity in relation to the Hebrew Bible, and to set up strategies for connecting studies of the historical contexts and literature of the Bible to parallel issues in the present day.

The volume questions how we can better understand the divide between insider and outsider and the powerful impact of prejudice as a basis for preserving differences between "us" and "them"? In turn the contributors question how such frameworks shape a community's self-perception, its economics and politics. Guided by the general framework of Anderson's theory of nationalism and the outsider, such issues are explored in related ways throughout each of the contributions. Each contribution focuses on social, economic, or political issues that have significantly shaped or influenced dominant elements of cultural memory and the construction of identity in the biblical texts. Together the contributions present a larger proposal: the broad contours of memory and identity in the Bible are the products of a collective desire to reshape the social-political world.

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Olyan Festscrift (SBL Press)

NEW BOOK FROM SBL PRESS:
With the Loyal You Show Yourself Loyal: Essays on Relationships in the Hebrew Bible in Honor of Saul M. Olyan

T. M. Lemos, Jordan D. Rosenblum, Karen B. Stern, Debra Scoggins Ballentine, editors

ISBN 9781628374018
Volume AIL 42
Status Available
Publication Date March 2021

Paperback
$75.00

eBook
$75.00

Hardbackv $95.00

Contributors to this volume come together to honor the lifetime of work of Saul M. Olyan, Samuel Ungerleider Jr. Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies at Brown University. Essays by his students, colleagues, and friends focus on and engage with his work on relationships in the Hebrew Bible, from the marking of status in relationships of inequality, to human family, friend, and sexual relationships, to relationships between divine beings. Contributors include Susan Ackerman, Klaus-Peter Adam, Rainer Albertz, Andrea Allgood, Debra Scoggins Ballentine, Bob Becking, John J. Collins, Stephen L. Cook, Ronald Hendel, T. M. Lemos, Nathaniel B. Levtow, Carol Meyers, Susan Niditch, Brian Rainey, Thomas Römer, Jordan D. Rosenblum, Rudiger Schmitt, Jennifer Elizabeth Singletary, Kerry M. Sonia, Karen B. Stern, Stanley Stowers, Andrew Tobolowsky, Karel van der Toorn, Emma Wasserman, and Steven Weitzman.

Congratulations to Professor Olyan!

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Stokes, The Satan (Eerdmans)

RECENT BOOK FROM EERDMANS:
The Satan
How God's Executioner Became the Enemy

Ryan E. Stokes
Foreword by John J. Collins

PAPERBACK; Published: 7/9/2019
ISBN: 978-0-8028-7250-0
Price: $ 40.00
304 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9

DESCRIPTION

Many people today think of Satan as a little red demon with a pointy tail and a pitchfork—but this vision of the devil developed over many centuries and would be foreign to the writers of the Old Testament, where this figure makes his first appearances. The earliest texts that mention the Satan—it is always “the Satan” in the Old Testament—portray him as an agent of Yahweh, serving as an executioner of evildoers. But over the course of time, the Satan came to be regarded more as God’s enemy than God’s agent and was blamed for a host of problems.

Biblical scholar Ryan E. Stokes explains the development of the Satan tradition in the Hebrew scriptures and the writings of early Judaism, describing the interpretive and creative processes that transformed an agent of Yahweh into the archenemy of good. He explores how the idea of a heavenly Satan figure factored into the problem of evil and received the blame for all that is wrong in the world.

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

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

More on Psalm 116

THE DUST BLOG: The cost of kindness. Bob MacDonald responds to Marc Zvi Brettler's recent essay on Psalm 116 in TheTorah.com, noted here.

Bob appeals to the musical notation of the Masoretic accents. This is a technical subject outside my expertise. I agree that v. 15 is not a question, for reasons I have already explained. That said, Bob's argument – assuming it is correct – may tell us something about the early medieval interpretation of the psalm. But it does not necessarily illuminate the psalm's original intent.

The root חסד (ḥsd) is often translated as "kindness" or "lovingkindness" or the like, but its root meaning is "covenant loyalty." The two concepts have some overlap. The translation "lovingkindness" usually works, although not always. For example, in Psalm 136:10, God smote the firstborn of Egypt out of ’covenant loyalty’ to Israel. But "lovingkindness" doesn't fit. Similarly in verses 15, 17-20.

The meaning of (חסידיו) ḥsydyw in this verse would be an interesting topic for discussion.

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Zornberg, Moses: A Human Life (Yale)

RECENT BOOK FROM YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS:
Moses
A Human Life

Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg

An unprecedented portrait of Moses's inner world and perplexing character, by a distinguished biblical scholar

No figure looms larger in Jewish culture than Moses, and few have stories more enigmatic. Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, acclaimed for her many books on Jewish thought, turns her attention to Moses in this remarkably rich, evocative book.

Drawing on a broad range of sources—literary as well as psychoanalytic, a wealth of classical Jewish texts alongside George Eliot, W. G. Sebald, and Werner Herzog—Zornberg offers a vivid and original portrait of the biblical Moses. Moses's vexing personality, his uncertain origins, and his turbulent relations with his own people are acutely explored by Zornberg, who sees this story, told and retold, as crucial not only to the biblical past but also to the future of Jewish history.

Format: Paper
Price: $15.00

ISBN: 9780300251883
Publication Date: March 17, 2020
240 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
1 b/w illus.

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Stepped pools, chalk vessels, and ritual purity

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Archaeology and Jewish Purity Practices. Testimony of Stepped Pools and Chalk Vessels (Marek Dospěl). This essay summarizes two BAR articles, one by Cecilia Wassén in 2019 and the other by Yonatan Adler in the current issue. Both articles are behind the subscription wall.

I have noted another essay by Dr. Adler on the same subject here.

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

Vatican issues archaeology awards

RECOGNITION: The Vatican has recognized three archaeologists for their contributions (Aleteia). Congratulations to all three, but notably to the gold-medal winner, Győző Vörös, chief excavator of Machaerus, the site of the execution of John the Baptist.

HT Rogue Classicism.

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

Monday, May 17, 2021

Rom-shiloni, Voices from the Ruins (Eerdmans)

NEW BOOK FROM EERDMANS:
Voices from the Ruins
Theodicy and the Fall of Jerusalem in the Hebrew Bible
Dalit Rom-shiloni

HARDCOVER; Published: 5/13/2021
ISBN: 978-0-8028-7860-1
Price: $ 70.00
580 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9

DESCRIPTION

Where was God in the sixth-century destruction of Jerusalem?

The Hebrew Bible compositions written during and around the sixth century BCE provide an illuminating glimpse into how ancient Judeans reconciled the major qualities of God—as Lord, fierce warrior, and often harsh rather than compassionate judge—with the suffering they were experiencing at the hands of the Neo-Babylonian empire, which had brutally destroyed Judah and deported its people. Voices from the Ruins examines the biblical texts “explicitly and directly contextualized by those catastrophic events”—Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Lamentations, and selected Psalms—to trace the rich, diverse, and often-polemicized discourse over theodicy unfolding therein. Dalit Rom-Shiloni shows how the “voices from the ruins” in these texts variously justified God in the face of the rampant destruction, expressed doubt, and protested God’s action (and inaction).

Rather than trying to paper over the stark theological differences between the writings of these sixth-century historiographers, prophets, and poets, Rom-Shiloni emphasizes the dynamic of theological pluralism as a genuine characteristic of the Hebrew Bible. Through these avenues, and with her careful, discerning textual analysis, she provides readers with insight into how the sufferers of an ancient national catastrophe wrestled with the difficult question that has accompanied tragedies throughout history: Where was God?

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Precious or costly?

PROF. MARC ZVI BRETTLER: Psalm 116 – Is the Death of the Righteous Precious in the Eyes of YHWH? (TheTorah.com).
Psalm 116:15 declares the death of the righteous to be yaqar, often translated as “precious,” to God. To avoid this message some scholars reinterpret the word yaqar to mean “difficult” or “grievous,” but a better solution is available.
I have always taken this verse to mean that the death of the pious is "costly" or "expensive" in God's eyes. In other words, God recognizes the value of their lives and presumably would make some effort to prevent their loss. That understanding still works for me. But read the essay and see what you think.

UPDATE (18 May): More here.

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Review of Chapot (Ed.), Les récits de la destruction de Jérusalem

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Les récits de la destruction de Jérusalem (70 ap. J.-C.): Contextes, représentations et enjeux, entre Antiquité et Moyen Âge.
Frédéric Chapot, Les récits de la destruction de Jérusalem (70 ap. J.-C.): Contextes, représentations et enjeux, entre Antiquité et Moyen Âge. Judaïsme ancien et origines du christianisme, 19. Turnhout: Brepols, 2020. Pp. 408. ISBN 9782503588308 €85,00.

Review by
Duncan MacRae, University of California, Berkeley. duncanmacrae@berkeley.edu

[...]

In sum, the reader of this book is presented with an album of destructions of Jerusalem, moving from Roman military practice and rhetorics to late imperial construction projects and early medieval apocrypha, with the essays, for the most part, both introducing their subjects well and guiding readers towards the bigger picture. ...

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

Jerusalem in the time of Nehemiah (new presentation)

LEEN RITMEYER: Jerusalem in the time of Nehemiah A new presentation by Ritmeyer Archaeological Design.

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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Shavuot 2021

THE FESTIVAL OF SHAVUOT (Weeks, Pentecost) begins tonight at sundown. Best wishes to all those celebrating.

Last year's Shavuot post, with links, is here. Subsequent Shavuot-related posts are here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Enjoy the celebrations, but stay safe, especially if you are in Israel right now.

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

On Phoenician burial practices in the Persian Period

PHOENICIAN WATCH: Phoenician mortuary practices of the Achaemenid Period (Roman Times). Mary Harrsch gives an illustrated report on a recent PhD dissertation by Helen Dixon: "Phoenician Mortuary Practice in the Iron Age I – III (ca. 1200 – ca. 300 BCE) Levantine “Homeland” (University of Michigan). One takeaway is that Phoenician funerary customs arguably were influenced by Zoroastrianism.

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

Colorizing ancient Mesopotamia

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: Mesopotamian Sculpture in Color (Astrid Nunn).
Visitors to museums have long been accustomed to seeing ancient sculpture literally in black and white. The fact that Greek sculpture was painted continues to surprise some people. This is also true for Mesopotamian stone sculpture, although few traces of color have always been visible to the naked eye. This is changing as in the 21st century new ways of retrieving and interpreting those traces are now available.

[...]

For the similar problem of recovering the colors of the Arch of Titus, see here and links. For a recent book on color in ancient Mesopotamia, see here. For posts on language and ancient color perception, see here and links.

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Did the Land have to repay lost sabbatical years?

PROF. JOSEPH LAM: Sin Is a Debt that Must Be Repaid (TheTorah.com).
What do the curses in Leviticus 26 mean by saying that Israel will רצה ratzah their sins and the land will רצה ratzah its Sabbatical years?

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