Saturday, June 26, 2021

Josephus and the standards

LAUDATOR TEMPORIS ACTI: Standards (Michael Gilleland). All the things about ancient Roman military standards (i.e., banners).

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Yip, Ezekiel's Message of Hope and Restoration (De Gruyter)

Hei Yin Yip

Ezekiel's Message of Hope and Restoration
Redaction-Critical Study of Ezekiel 1–7

In: Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 532
De Gruyter | 2021

About this book

The first twenty-four chapters of the book of Ezekiel are characterised by vehement declarations of judgement. This observation leaves the impression that Ezekiel 1–7 is devoid of references to hope and restoration. However, there is a redactional stratum in this section that supplemented the texts with material that conveys restoration and hope for the future.

In Ezekiel 1–7, many of these additions focus on priestly topics. The motif of restoration in the redactional material of Ezekiel 3–5 is expressed by the reinstatement of Ezekiel in his priestly role. This editorial emphasis on Ezekiel as priest in the redactional material suggests that the redaction was influenced by Zechariah 3, a text that depicts the reinstitution of the exiled Zadokite priesthood. Moreover, the redactional material of Ezekiel 6-7 drew inspiration from the Law of the Temple in Ezekiel 43-46, as the redactors sought to enhance Ezekiel’s priestly role.

The study provides new insights into how redactors, who may have been associated with the Zadokite priesthood, inserted the message of hope and restoration into the literary unit Ezekiel 1-7 during the post-exilic period.Hardcover £79.00


Published: April 19, 2021
ISBN: 9783110711578

Published: April 19, 2021
ISBN: 9783110711264

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Starr, Toward a History of Jewish Thought: The Soul, Resurrection, and the Afterlife (Wipf & Stock)

Toward a History of Jewish Thought
The Soul, Resurrection, and the Afterlife

by Zachary Alan Starr
Imprint: Wipf and Stock
456 Pages, 7.00 x 10.00 x 0.00 in

Published: March 2020
$46.00 / £35.00 / AU$63.00

Published: March 2020
$46.00 / £33.00 / AU$71.00

Published: March 2020
$65.00 / £49.00 / AU$88.00


The work is a history of Jewish beliefs regarding the concept of the soul, the idea of resurrection, and the nature of the afterlife. The work describes these beliefs, accounts for the origin of these beliefs, discusses the ways in which these beliefs have evolved, and explains why the many changes in belief have occurred. Views about the soul, resurrection, and the afterlife are related to other Jewish views and to broad movements in Jewish thought; and Jewish intellectual history is placed within the context of the history of Western thought in general. That history begins with the biblical period and extends to the present time.

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Friday, June 25, 2021

Mystical creation theology

PROF. RABBI ARTHUR GREEN: Making Kiddush: Mysticism in the Age of Science (
The Torah describes God creating through speech, midrash mores specifically understands creation through the letters of the aleph-bet, and the kabbalists envision it as a series of divine emanations, contractions, and primal pairings. What meaning can we find in these ancient creation myths in light of evolution?
Whatever you make of the modern mystical panentheism, the history of the midrashic and kabbalistic theology of creation is fascinating.

Arthur Green has written a great deal on Jewish mysticism and mystical theology. For an article by him on the Zohar, see here.

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Russia's restorations of Palmyra

PALMYRA WATCH: Russia gains foothold in Syria’s Palmyra through archaeological restoration. Russia has begun a project to rehabilitate Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra in its latest efforts to gain a foothold in the country’s vital sectors (Mohammed Hardan, Al-Monitor).

As you can guess from the headline, the author is concerned about the geopolitical implications of Russia's involvment. I have no view about this. The question is outside my expertise. But I do think it's good news that somebody is concerned about the restoration of Palmyra.

For many posts on the ancient metropolis of Palmyra, its history and archaeology, the Aramaic dialect once spoken there (Palmyrene), and the city's tragic reversals of fortune, now trending for the better, start here and follow the links.

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Anabasis on the Arkasid world

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: The Arsakid World (Anabasis, 10).
Volume 10 (2019) of Anabasis. Studia Classica et Orientalia is now out. This is a special volume, entitled “The Arsakid World: Studies on the History and Culture of Western and Central Asia” edited by Marek Jan Olbrycht and Jeffrey D. Lerner.
Follow the link for a link to the journal and the TOC of the volume.

For PaleoJudaica posts on Parthia and the ancient Parthians and Arcasids (Arkasids), see here and links (cf. here, here, and here).

In addition to its general background interest for PaleoJudaica, this volume of Anabasis has a specific biblical connection. A bonus point if you can find it in the TOC.

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

Lightstone, In the Seat of Moses (Cascade)

In the Seat of Moses
An Introductory Guide to Early Rabbinic Legal Rhetoric and Literary Conventions

Westar Studies

by Jack N. Lightstone
Imprint: Cascade Books
478 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.00 in

Published: August 2020
$55.00 / £42.00 / AU$75.00

Published: August 2020
$80.00 / £60.00 / AU$109.00

9781532659034v Published: August 2020
$55.00 / £39.00 / AU$77.00


In the Seat of Moses offers readers a unique, frank, and penetrating analysis of the rise of rabbinic Judaism in the late Roman period. Over time and through masterly rhetorical strategy, rabbinic writings in post-temple Judaism come to occupy an authoritarian place within a pluralistic tradition. Slowly, the rabbis occupy the seat of Moses, and Lightstone introduces readers to this process, to the most significant texts, to the rhetorical styles and appeals to authority, and even to how authority came to be authority. As a seasoned and honest scholar, Lightstone achieves his goal of introducing novice readers to the often obscure world of rabbinic literary conventions with astounding success. This book is an excellent contribution to the Westar Studies series focused on religious literacy.

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Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Journal of Hebrew Scriptures

THE AWOL BLOG: Open Access Journal: Journal of Hebrew Scriptures. I mention this journal from time to time. This is a good excuse to do so again.

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Cambridge lectures on ancient Jerusalem

BIBLE PLACES BLOG: Cambridge Symposium Lectures Online (Todd Bolen).
A number of lectures related to the archaeology of Jerusalem have now been posted from the Cambridge Symposium held in March 2019.

The official title of the gathering was “The Ancient City of David: Recent Archaeological Exploration of Jerusalem. An Academic Symposium co-organized by Megalim: The City of David Institute and Von Hugel Institute of St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge.”

I’ve organized the available recordings in chronological order by topic. The lectures range in length from 13 to 45 minutes, with most approximately 25 minutes.

The lectures and links follow. They cover topics dating from the Bronze Age to after the first Roman destruction.

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

Review of Sokol, The Snake at the Mouth of the Cave (Koren)

TALMUD WATCH:: Miraculous Tales of Ancient Judaism Dissected (By Rabbi Dr. Israel Drazin, San Diego Jewish World).
The title of Sokol’s book, The Snake at the Mouth of the Cave, is the title of one of eight tales and is only one of several strange events in that tale. The stories focus on many human problems: improper behavior by pious men, interpersonal conflict, alienation, pain, triumph, success, failure, love, fear, anger, redemption, yearnings, and more. He analyzes all of the accounts in a rational eye-opening manner. He tells us the sources of each of them and gives us an enlightening introduction to each, including the biography of the main character and the conditions of the time he lived.
Cross-file under New Book:
Rabbi Dr. Moshe Sokol, The Snake at the Mouth of the Cave (Jerusalem: Koren, 2021) $24.95,ISBN: 9781592645473


The Talmud is well known for its complex legal discussions and halakhic discourse, yet the Talmud also contains a large amount of aggada, non-halalkhic teachings about theology, ethics, spirituality, psychology, health, and many other topics, interspersed throughout the text. This fascinating material has not merited the same amount of scholarly attention over the centuries as has the halakhic portion, and its riches are waiting to be mined.
The Snake at the Mouth of the Cave by Rabbi Dr. Moshe Sokol offers eye-opening studies of eight aggadic stories about sages. These narratives contain dramatic explorations of human nature revolving around a common theme: the cost of living a deeply principled life, and the complex ways in which human nature, past experiences, and future hopes shape difficult moral choices. Rabbi Sokol sheds light on these stories, drawing on classical rabbinic commentaries, contemporary scholarship, and insights from such diverse fields as psychology, literature, cultural studies, philosophy, history, and more.
The Talmud has endured for millennia, and despite predictions to the contrary, the study of Talmud flourishes. The talmudic conversation will continue long into the future, and aggadic narratives too, properly understood, have much to teach future generations.

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Liebman, The Evolution of Love (Wipf & Stock)

The Evolution of Love
Theology and Morality in Ancient Judaism

by Sheldon W. Liebman

Imprint: Wipf and Stock
518 Pages, 7.00 x 10.00 x 1.00 in

Published: April 2021
$55.00 / £41.00 / AU$73.00

Published: April 2021
$75.00 / £55.00 / AU$99.00

Published: April 2021
$55.00 / £39.00 / AU$71.00


This book, an examination of Judaism as it evolved over a period of approximately 1,500 years, is an analysis of the Hebrew Bible and other ancient Jewish writings, with special emphasis on theology and morality. By the middle of the first millennium, with the writing of Deuteronomy, the Psalms, and the works of the prophets, Judaism had embraced the idea that God is a compassionate father; that His relationship with His people is based on love rather than fear; and that His response to their commission of sins is based on the assumption that they are capable of repentance and worthy of forgiveness. In the final stage of its development--culminating in the first and second centuries AD--Judaism was understood to require its adherents to enact the will of God--specifically, to establish a community based on political, economic, and social laws that enforce the principles of justice and mercy. And that process came to be seen as inevitably dependent on human agency--the need for human beings to fulfill God's commandments. In Judaism, loving neighbors (and strangers) came to be understood as the principal--and, for many Jews, the only--way of loving God.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

A new inscription of Pharaoh Hophra

EGYPTIAN EPIGRAPHY: Biblical-era Egyptian stele discovered by farmer. The stele is accredited to the reign of the pharaoh Apries and may discuss a military campaign of his. One campaign saw him try to fight the Babylonians as they sought to destroy the First Temple (Aaron Reich, Jerusalem Post).
The pharaoh Apries, also known as Wahibre Haaibre and identified in the Bible as Hophra, was the fourth ruler in the 26th dynasty.

During his reign, Apries had conflicts in the Levant, east of Egypt. In one such occasion, he led a campaign to Jerusalem to defend it from the Babylonian Empire's Nebuchadnezzar II. This was unsuccessful, however, and the Babylonians would eventually breach Jerusalem and destroy much of the city, including the First Temple. These events were described in the biblical Book of Jeremiah.

For the biblical references to Apries/Hophra, see Jeremiah 37:3-11, 44:29-30, 46:13-17.

Here's a fun fact that I don't think anyone else has noticed in this connection. Jeremiah's oracle against this Pharaoh (which came true) was addressed to two messengers sent by King Zedekiah. One of them was Jehucal (Yehukhal) son of Shelemiah, whose bulla was discovered by the late Eilat Mazar in her City of David excavation.

The new Apries/Hophra inscription is not yet deciphered. It would be cool if it shed light on his campaign against the Babylonians at Jerusalem.

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Witte et al. (eds.), Torah, Temple, Land (Mohr Siebeck)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Torah, Temple, Land. Constructions of Judaism in Antiquity. Edited by Markus Witte, Jens Schröter, and Verena M. Lepper. 2021. VII, 316 pages. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 184. 134,00 € including VAT. cloth ISBN 978-3-16-159853-1.
Published in English.
The present volume contains the proceedings of a conference held in October 2018 at Humboldt University Berlin. The articles reflect the different categories of describing Judaism of the Second Temple Period in view of their sustainability in characterising an ancient religious community in different historical situations and discuss relevant (re)constructions of ancient Judaism in the history of scholarship. Since the Persian period, ancient Judaism existed in a world which was in constant flux regarding its political, social, and religious contexts. Consequently, Judaism was subject to permanent processes of change in its self-perception as well as its external perception. In all complexity, however, the Torah, the Temple(s) as a place where heaven meets the earth, and the 'holy' or 'promised' land as the dwelling place of God's people can be regarded as institutions to which all kinds of Judaism in the Babylonian and Egyptian dispora as well in Israel/Palestine were related in some way or another.

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Blackpool's "Chariots of the Gods" theme park canceled

Blackpool project drops Chariots of the Gods. There will not be a Chariots of the Gods theme park within the new Blackpool Central project in England after all (Intergame).

Not to worry: The Chariots of the Gods theme park in Switzerland has had its ups and downs, but it abides.

For PaleoJudaica posts on Erich Von Däniken, his goofy ideas about ancient aliens, and a surprise about his influence, see here and links (cf. here). Mr. Von Däniken is still alive and, as far as I know, well. He was still giving public lectures until the pandemic shut them down in 2020.

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The Conversation: McGrath on the Mandeans

MANDEAN (MANDAEAN) WATCH: This tiny minority of Iraqis follows an ancient Gnostic religion – and there's a chance they could be your neighbors too. (James F. McGrath, Professor of New Testament Language and Literature, Butler University, Butler University; Yahoo rpt. from The Conversation).

Professor McGrath is an expert on the Mandeans and a blogger (at Religion Prof) well known to PaleoJudaica readers. He comments on the article, with links, here.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

More Nero reviews

THE REVIEWS OF THE NERO EXHIBITION AT THE BRITISH MUSEUM KEEP COMING IN. Here are two more. Both noted courtesy of Rogue Classicism.

What to Make of Nero? An exhibition takes on the notorious Roman emperor, from gleaming marble to roaring flames (Michael Glover, Hyperalleric). Good commentary on some of the artifacts, but tries too hard to sound clever.

Was Nero A Hero? Seeking To Rehabilitate The Reviled Roman Emperor, The British Museum Exposes The Politics Of Duplicity (Jonathan Keats, Forbes).

All of that said, Nero’s immorality and extravagance were almost pedestrian by Roman imperial standards. The most interesting aspect of the British Museum exhibit is to show how the facts were spun, why they were exaggerated, how the exaggerations gained traction, and why the image has persisted with sufficient intensity for Nero to be one of the few ancient rulers that still have name recognition.
Good insights on how the exhibition implicity illuminates our own media and social-media culture.

It's remarkable that (as far as I recall) none of the reviews of this exhibition even question Suetonius' dubious report of Nero's suicide or ask whether one of the imposter Neros could have been Nero himself. More on that here.

Nero may well have killed himself. All of the Nero claimants may well have been imposters. But our sources are at the tabloid level of credibility. I make no assumptions about what did or did not happen.

Previous posts on the BM's Nero Exhibition are here and links.

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Staples, The Idea of Israel in Second Temple Judaism (CUP)

The Idea of Israel in Second Temple Judaism
A New Theory of People, Exile, and Israelite Identity

AUTHOR: Jason A. Staples, North Carolina State University, Raleigh
FORMAT: Hardback
ISBN: 9781108842860

£ 29.99


In this book, Jason A. Staples proposes a new paradigm for how the biblical concept of Israel developed in Early Judaism and how that concept impacted Jewish apocalyptic hopes for restoration after the Babylonian Exile. Challenging conventional assumptions about Israelite identity in antiquity, his argument is based on a close analysis of a vast corpus of biblical and other early Jewish literature and material evidence. Staples demonstrates that continued aspirations for Israel's restoration in the context of diaspora and imperial domination remained central to Jewish conceptions of Israelite identity throughout the final centuries before Christianity and even into the early part of the Common Era. He also shows that Israelite identity was more diverse in antiquity than is typically appreciated in modern scholarship. His book lays the groundwork for a better understanding of the so-called 'parting of the ways' between Judaism and Christianity and how earliest Christianity itself grew out of hopes for Israel's restoration.

  • Traces the development of the concept of 'Israel' from the Bible into the first century CE
  • Offers a new paradigm for understanding the relationship between the terms 'Israelite' and 'Jew' in antiquity, explaining the connection between that terminology and the apocalyptic restoration hopes of many Jews in the Second Temple period
  • Provides a close reading of a vast corpus of biblical and other early Jewish texts, integrating data and questions typically isolated or treated differently across the fields of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, New Testament, Jewish Apocrypha/Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Dead Sea Scrolls, and history of Judaism

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There was a Jewish Sasanian queen?

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Exilarchal Propaganda and Zoroastrians in Tenth- to Eleventh-Century Baghdad. Notice of an article by Simcha Gross in the current issue of the Journal of the American Oriental Society. Everything but the abstract and the first page of the article are behind a subscription wall.

The text in question dates to the tenth or eleventh century, but it claims to recount events from late antiquity.

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Monday, June 21, 2021

Berkson & Fisch (trans.), Pirke Avot (JPS 2010)

Pirke Avot
Timeless Wisdom for Modern Life

William Berkson
Translated by William Berkson and Menachem Fisch
240 pages

Paperback October 2010

About the Book

The great Jewish ethical tradition through a contemporary lens

In this new edition of the well-known Jewish classic, Berkson helps us see that Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) is more than just a fundamental religious text; it is also a compelling, contemporary ethical guide.

Berkson looks at the individual sayings, or mishnayot, through the interpretations of the great Jewish commentators and also within the broader context of Western thought—through views found in the Bible, the ancient Greeks, the Enlightenment, Buddhism, Confucianism, and American culture today.

The book’s most important and innovative feature is its exploration of the relationship between the beliefs of the ancient Sages and modern psychology, particularly the key to good relationships: ethical conduct. The result is a book that goes far beyond the plain meaning of the sayings to explore their ethical, psychological, and religious significance for us today.

Included are an extensive index and the full text of Pirke Avot in English and Hebrew on facing pages.

Happy summer! The news is very quiet. So in addition to noting new books, I am highlighting older books that I think you may find interesting.

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A (former) demoniac but not a prostitute and not Jesus' wife

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Was Mary Magdalene Wife of Jesus? Was Mary Magdalene a Prostitute? How did her reputation evolve “from saint to sinner”?. We haven't gone over this ground for awhile, so let's do it again. The answer to the first question is that we have no evidence that she and Jesus were married. The answer to the second is the idea that she was a prostitute came from some much later unfounded inferences about Mary and stories about anonymous women in the Gospels. But Luke (8:2) does say that she had seven demons cast out of her, so that's in the Bible.

This BHD post includes the full text of a 2005 Bible Review article by Birger Pearson.

Many years ago I discussed the question of whether Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. My review of the The Da Vinci Code book is here and of the rather better movie is here. For many, many posts on the infamous Gospel of Jesus' Wife forgery, start here and follow the links. For more on the erroneous idea that the Gospels present Mary as a prostitute, see here and here.

There are many other PaleoJudaica posts on Mary Magdale in the archives. You can find them with the blog's search engine.

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The Orion Center Newsletter

THE AWOL BLOG: Open Access Journal: The Orion Center Newsletter. I am pleased to see that the Newsletter page is now up to date, including the December 2020 Newsletter. I try to keep up with the links, but they tend to come well after the Newsletter is circulated by e-mail, so I sometimes lose track.

For more on the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literatures, see here.

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Volunteer to be a Scribe of the Cairo Geniza

To get started with the project, all volunteers need to do is choose one of our active workflows. Each workflow has a Tutorial and Field Guide providing information on how to get involved. Anyone can participate in the project, even if they have no knowledge of the Hebrew and Arabic language. Since 2017, over 9,500 volunteers have sorted more than 50,000 fragments into Hebrew and Arabic script, started discussions about what they’ve seen and learned and done the important work of transcribing ancient texts.
For PaleoJudaica Posts on the multi-institution Scribes of the Cairo Geniza Project, see here and links. And for many, many other posts on the Cairo Geniza and its manuscripts, start here and follow the links.

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

Sunday, June 20, 2021

A gold coin hoard and the Persian conquest of Jerusalem

NUMISMATICS: Ancient Gold Coin Hoard Pinpoints Persian Destruction of Jerusalem (David Hendin, CoinWeek).
The Givati hoard is singularly homogeneous, and [IAA senior numismatist Gabriella] Bijovsky concludes that “during this time (608-615 CE), and especially after the capture of Antioch by the Persians in 611 and until 613, the presence of a Byzantine military garrison in Jerusalem could explain the operation of a temporary mint in order to pay the troops and emphasize Byzantine sovereignty over the city… Given the fact that all Antioch surrendered to the Persians in 610, Emesa and Apamea in 611, and Damascus in 613, Jerusalem remained the only major Byzantine stronghold in the region capable of coin production.”
This is the first I recall hearing about this coin hoard. For PaleoJudaica posts about other discoveries at the Givati (Giv'ati) Parking Lot Excavation, see here and links.

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Kutash, Goddesses in Myth and Cultural Memory (Bloomsbury)

Goddesses in Myth and Cultural Memory

By: Emilie Kutash

Published: 05-20-2021
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 256
ISBN: 9780567697394
Imprint: Bloomsbury Academic
Dimensions: 6 1/8" x 9 1/4"
List price: $115.00
Online price: $103.50
Save $11.50 (10%)


EPUB/MOBI eBook (Watermarked)

PDF eBook (Watermarked)

About Goddesses in Myth and Cultural Memory

How have the goddesses of ancient myth survived, prevalent even now as literary and cultural icons? How do allegory, symbolic interpretation, and political context transform the goddess from her regional and individual identity into a goddess of philosophy and literature? Emilie Kutash explores these questions, beginning from the premise that cultural memory, a collective cultural and social phenomenon, can last thousands of years.

Kutash demonstrates a continuing practice of interpreting and allegorizing ancient myths, tracing these goddesses of archaic origin through history. Chapters follow the goddesses from their ancient near eastern prototypes, to their place in the epic poetry, drama and hymns of classical Greece, to their appearance in Platonic and Neoplatonic philosophy, Medieval allegory, and their association with Christendom.

Finally, Kutash considers how goddesses were made into Jungian archetypes, and how some contemporary feminists made them a counterfoil to male divinity, thereby addressing the continued role of goddesses in perpetuating gender binaries.

Note in particular chapter 8: "Asherah, Sophia, Shechinah: Are they Hebrew Goddesses?"

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Getatchew Haile 1931-2021

SAD NEWS: Getatchew Haile, renowned Ethiopian philologist and beloved St. John's professor, dies at 90 (Star Tribune via MSN).
Getatchew Haile was two very different people in one body.

One version of Haile, who died this month at 90, was an eminent scholar at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at St. John's University in St. Joseph, Minn. In his field of philology, the study of the historical development of languages, Haile worked in eight languages, from ancient Hebrew and Arabic to ancient Ethiopian tongues such as Amharic and Ge'ez. A recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship — the "genius grant" — Haile studied and cataloged manuscripts from the early days of Christianity in Ethiopia, dating back some one and a half millennia.


The Manuscript Man, Father Columba Stewart, is quoted. And read on for the other version of Professor Haile. Cross-file under Ethiopic Watch.

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Samaritan Shavuot 2021

SAMARITAN WATCH: Samaritans celebrate Shavuot atop Mount Gerizim The Samaritan religion closely resembles Judaism, but with several marked differences, including its own Torah written in their own ancient Hebrew, and Mount Gerizim being their holiest place (Jerusalem Post). The celebrations began this morning. As always, best wishes to those celebrating.

Past posts on Samaritan Passover are here and links.

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