Saturday, July 17, 2021

Tisha B'Av 2021

TISHA B'AV (THE NINTH OF AV) begins this evening at sundown. An easy fast to all those observing it.

The Ninth of Av is not specifically a biblical holy day. Rather, it commemorates a number of disasters that happened to the Jewish people, traditionally all on that same day. These include the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Babylonians, the destruction of the Herodian Temple by the Romans, and the fall of Betar during the Bar Kokhba revolt.

Last years Tisha B'Av post is here, leading to many links. Subsequent Tisha B'Av-related posts are here, here, here, here, here, and here.

UPDATE (19 July): More here and here.

UPDATE (20 July): More here.

UPDATE (26 July): More here.

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Festschrift for François de Blois

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: The Roar of Silence. Notice of a New Book (in the form of a journal issue): Benkato, Adam & Arash Zeini (eds.). 2021. The roar of silence: Festschrift for François de Blois. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 31(3). Follow the link for the TOC.

The volume includes an article on Judeo-Persian literature and another on the oldest dated document in the Cairo Geniza (dated according to the Seleucid era).

You can read the abstracts for free, but the full articles are behind a subscription wall.

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Lawrence, Egg Whites or Turnips? (Wipf & Stock)

Egg Whites or Turnips?
Archaeology and Bible Translation

by Paul J. N. Lawrence
Imprint: Wipf and Stock
178 Pages, 5.00 x 8.00 x 0.00 in

Published: June 2020
$23.00 / £18.00 / AU$32.00

9781725260344v Published: June 2020
$43.00 / £33.00 / AU$59.00 v eBookv 9781725260368
Published: June 2020
$23.00 / £17.00 / AU$34.00


Why are Bible translations so different from each other in places? Don't Bible translators know whether it was peacocks or baboons that King Solomon brought into Israel? Why has "sapphire" been replaced by "lapis lazuli" in some more modern versions? What animal provided the leather for the tabernacle? A badger? A sea cow? Or did the term in question simply mean "leather"? Can archaeology tell us what David's harp looked like? What is the evidence for leprosy in Bible times? Is there evidence for cotton, silk, and chickens at the time of the Bible? Answers to these and many other questions are given in this book. But how are such questions to be answered? Essentially the answer is "from the ground"--what can be called "archaeology." This book explores how, over the past two centuries, archaeology has shed its light on the text of the Bible.

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Friday, July 16, 2021

Pig skeleton excavated in First-Temple-era Jerusalem building

OSTEOLOGY: Cryptic 2,700 year-old pig skeleton found in Jerusalem’s City of David. The remains of the animal were found in a luxurious First Temple Period building. Was it there to be eaten? (Rosella Tercatin, Jerusalem Post). Pig bones are rare in First-Temple Jerusalem excavations, but they do show up once in a while.

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Maier, Das Glück im antiken Judentum und im Neuen Testament (Mohr Siebeck)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Daniel Maier. Das Glück im antiken Judentum und im Neuen Testament. Eine Untersuchung zu den Konzepten eines guten Lebens in der Literatur des Zweiten Tempels und deren Einfluss auf die frühchristliche Wahrnehmung des Glücks. [Happiness in Ancient Judaism and the New Testament. A Study of the Concepts of a Good Life in Second Temple Literature and Their Influence on the Early Christian Perception of Happiness.] 2021. XIX, 520 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 552. 114,00 € including VAT. sewn paper ISBN 978-3-16-159864-7.
Published in German.
Daniel Maier examines concepts of happiness in Second Temple literature. By analyzing different traditions of understanding the good life in Ancient Judaism, he opens up fresh perspectives on concepts of happiness in the New Testament that cannot be identified without their Jewish background and have been largely overlooked in the scholarly study of this field so far. This work was awarded the Manfred Görg Juniorprize 2021.

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A career all around late antiquity

PROF. HAGITH SIVAN: From the Visigoths to the Bible. Another essay in the On Becoming a Jewish Bible Scholar series at I have noted others here and here.

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Bethsaida Excavations Project website

THE AWOL BLOG: Bethsaida Excavations Project. This is an impressive website!

This Bethsaida is the site of et-Tell. Regular readers will be aware that there are two main contenders for the site of the ancient city of Bethsaida near the Sea of Galilee. The other is el-Araj. Both excavations seem confident of their identification and they tend to call their site "Bethsaida" with little qualification. That can be confusing.

For the ongoing controversy over which site is the actual ancient city of Bethsaida, start here and follow the many links.

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Thursday, July 15, 2021

Hyperbolic wall destruction in the Bible?

ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE BIBLE: First Temple-era walls, razed in biblical account, found unbreached in Jerusalem. Missing section of 8th-7th century BCE fortification puts in question narrative of 2 Kings in which conquering Babylonians ‘tore down Jerusalem’s walls on every side’ (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).

At most this is hyperbole, which everyone uses. It is unremarkable.

That said, I think "on every side" is an over-translation of סביב, whose basic meaning is "around." As the article indicates, it is reasonable to read the verse in a way that does not imply that all the wall was broken down everywhere.

It's also worth highlighting the small finds of the excavation. The article has nice photos.

Inside a building abutting the new wall section, remains of rows of smashed storage jars were discovered, bearing “rosette” stamped handles, indicative of the final years of the Kingdom of Judah. Also near the wall, a stone Babylonian stamp seal was found etched with a figure standing in front of symbols of the two Babylonian gods Marduk and Nabu.

Likewise, the team discovered a clay bulla (stamp seal impression) inscribed with the Judaean personal name “Tsafan.” It is one of dozens of seal impressions and seals from this era uncovered in Jerusalem.

One of the jar handles was also inscribed with LMLK, "For the king."

The name Tsafan appears in other bullae (see the article for details) but not in the Bible. But it looks like a short form of the biblical name Zephaniah.

Background here. Also relevant for Tisha B'Av.

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

Lamentations and inner-biblical exegesis

FOR TISHA B'AV: Reading Lamentations with Inner-Biblical Exegesis (Prof. Rabbi Reuven Kimelman,
By identifying biblical intertexts and parallel phrases, we can better understand the flow, the imagery, and even the core message of Eichah, Lamentations.
Reminder: Tisha B'Av (the Ninth of Av) begins on the evening of 17 July.

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Review of Spanu, Proclus and the Chaldean oracles

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Proclus and the Chaldean oracles.
Nicola Spanu, Proclus and the Chaldean oracles: a study on Proclean exegesis, with a translation and commentary of Proclus' Treatise on Chaldean philosophy. Routledge monographs in classical studies. Abingdon; New York: Routledge, 2020. Pp. viii, 199. ISBN 9780367473143 $124.00.

Review by
Graeme Miles, University of Tasmania.

For readers of late-antique Platonism the Chaldean Oracles are both inescapable and, in their details at least, often mysterious. The approximately two hundred fragments of the Oracles which survive come to us through their citations by Platonists for whom they were an authoritative text. The most fertile source of fragments, and the subject of this monograph, is Proclus, who makes frequent use of these verses to connect his own arguments with the words, as he sees them, of the gods themselves. ...

The goal of Spanu in the current work is not to produce a new edition of the fragments, though he does consider this a desiderandum, but rather to determine the extent to which Proclus alters the Chaldean Oracles in integrating them into his own philosophical system. ...

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Podcast interview with Ariel Sabar

PODCAST: On Contact: Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man & the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.
On the show this week, Chris Hedges talks to journalist and author, Ariel Sabar, about his new book Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. Sabar’s book exposes much about the bankruptcy of contemporary theology and the yearning by academics to be lionized by the mass media and popular culture, even at the expense of truth.
I don't have time to listen to this. (I rarely listen to podcasts. Even at double speed they are too slow.) But perhaps you will want to.

For PaleoJudaica posts on Sabar's book and the whole Gospel of Jesus' Wife saga, start here and follow the many links.

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

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Coins found from both revolts against Rome.

NUMISMATICS: Bar-Ilan U. Archaeologist Discovers Two Rare Coins Dating Back to Jewish Revolts Against Rome (Jewish Press).
Coins bearing the inscriptions “Herut Zion” (Freedom for Zion) and “LeHerut Yerushalayim” (To the Freedom of Jerusalem) were recently discovered during an archeological survey conducted in Wadi er-Rashash in eastern Binyamin by the Institute of Archeology at Bar-Ilan University.

One coin, from the Great Revolt, was discovered on the ground at Hirbet Jib’it and the second, from the Bar-Kokhba Revolt, was found in a cave on the nearby Wadi er-Rashash cliffs about a kilometer north, according to Dr. Dvir Raviv, who heads the survey on behalf of the Bar-Ilan Institute.


This discovery also relates indirectly to the upcoming commmemoration of the Ninth of Av (Tisha B'Av) (see the two preceding posts). According to tradition, the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans on the Ninth of Av and Bar Kokhba's stronghold Betar fell on the same date. The dates of these events may be approximate, but that is the tradition.

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

Remnant of Jerusalem's pre-exilic wall found

EXCAVATION: Archaeologists find part of Jerusalem’s wall destroyed on Ninth of Av. In 586 BCE, the Babylonians breached the walls of Jerusalem and tore down the Temple, but part of the walls have survived, researchers discovered (Rossella Tercatin, Jerusalem Post).

This year the Ninth of Av (Tisha B'Av) begins at sundown on 17 July.

UPDATE: Incorrect link now fixed!

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On sieges and starvation

FOR TISHA B'AV: Better Slain by Sword Than by Famine (Prof. Adele Berlin,
An emotionally evocative window into the suffering experienced by the victims of a siege.

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Biblical Narratives, Archaeology and Historicity (Thompson Festschrift) (T&T Clark)

Biblical Narratives, Archaeology and Historicity

Essays In Honour of Thomas L. Thompson

Emanuel Pfoh (Anthology Editor), Lukasz Niesiolowski-Spanò (Anthology Editor)



Ebook (PDF)

Published Nov 14 2019
Format Hardback
Edition 1st
Extent 328
ISBN 9780567686565
Imprint T&T Clark
Dimensions 9 x 6 inches
Series The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies
Publisher Bloomsbury Publishing


This volume collects essays from an international body of leading scholars in Old Testament studies, focused upon the key concepts of the question of historicity of biblical stories, the archaeology of Israel/Palestine during the Bronze and Iron Ages, and the nature of biblical narratives and related literature.

As a celebration of the extensive body of Thomas L. Thompson's work, these essays enable a threefold perspective on biblical narratives. Beginning with 'method', the contributors discuss archaeology, cultural memory, epistemology, and sociology of knowledge, before moving to 'history, historiography and archaeology' and close analysis of the Qumran Writings, Josephus and biblical rewritings. Finally the argument turn to the narratives themselves, exploring topics including the possibility of invented myth, the genre of Judges and the depiction of Moses in the Qu'ran. Presenting an interdisciplinary analysis of the historical issues concerning ancient Israel/Palestine, this volume creates an updated body of reference to fifty years' worth of scholarship.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

More on the "Jerubbaal" jug

INSCRIPTION UPDATE: Five-letter inscription inked 3,100 years ago may be name of biblical judge. Excavations in Judean foothills uncover small jug from 1,100 BCE that could be inscribed with ‘Jerubbaal’; first evidence of a name from Book of Judges on a contemporary artifact (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).

Ms. Borschel-Dan has published a characteristically thorough article. It covers the original report. It includes interviews with the excavator, the epigrapher, and other epigraphers. It discusses the epigraphic context of the inscription, the site of the discovery, the dating of the object, and the readings of the inscription.

The first letter is damaged. Not everyone is convinced that the name has to be Jerubbaal.

Background here (with my commentary) and here.

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Did God cry over Jerusalem?

PROF. EDWARD GREENSTEIN: Where Are God’s Tears in Lamentations? (
Tears abound in Lamentations: the poet cries, the people cry, even the city cries, but God does not. In contrast, the gods and goddesses of ancient Near Eastern city laments, cry along with their people. Midrash Eichah Rabbah, seemingly uncomfortable with such a callous depiction of God, rereads Lamentations to include God weeping.

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Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology (open access)

THE AWOL BLOG: New Open Access Journal: Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology (Chuck Jones).
JJAR is a peer-reviewed online journal dealing with studies related to the archaeology of the Levant and adjacent relevant regions, from the Protohistoric era to the end of the Hellenistic period (6th - 1st millennium BCE). It is distributed free of charge via the Internet.
The first article listed for this new journal is Christopher Rollston's on the Jerubbaal inscription:
Rollston, C., et al., 2021. The Jerubba‘al Inscription from Khirbet al-Ra‘i:A Proto-Canaanite (Early Alphabetic) Inscription. Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology , 2 , pp. 1-15.
More on that here.

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Miroshnikov, The Gospel of Thomas and Plato (Brill, open access)

The Gospel of Thomas and Plato

A Study of the Impact of Platonism on the “Fifth Gospel”

Series: Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies, Volume: 93

Author: Ivan Miroshnikov

Now available in Open Access thanks to the support of the University of Helsinki. In The Gospel of Thomas and Plato, Ivan Miroshnikov contributes to the study of the earliest Christian engagements with philosophy by offering the first systematic discussion of the impact of Platonism on the Gospel of Thomas, one of the most intriguing and cryptic works among the Nag Hammadi writings. Miroshnikov demonstrates that a Platonist lens is indispensable to the understanding of a number of the Thomasine sayings that have, for decades, remained elusive as exegetical cruces. The Gospel of Thomas is thus an important witness to the early stages of the process that eventually led to the Platonist formulation of certain Christian dogmata.

Prices from (excl. VAT): €121.00 / $146.00 Hardback

E-Book (PDF)
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-36729-6
Publication Date: 12 Jun 2018
Copyright Date: 01 Jan 2018

Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-36728-9
Publication Date: 28 Jun 2018v Copyright Date: 01 Jan 2018

HT the AWOL Blog.

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Monday, July 12, 2021

"Jerubbaal" on a jug

NORTHWEST SEMITIC EPIGRAPHY: Qiryat Gat 3 Millennia-Old Inscription May Name Biblical Judge Gideon (Jewish Press).
For the first time, an inscription from the time of the Biblical Judges, and even relating to the Book of Judges, has been recovered from excavations at Khirbat er-Ra‘i, near Qiryat Gat. The rare inscription bears the name ‘Yerubbaal’ in alphabetic script and dates from around 1,100 BCE. It was written in ink on a pottery vessel and found inside a storage pit that was dug into the ground and lined with stones.


I doubt that this jug belonged to the Gideon of the Book of Judges, assuming there was such a person. But this discovery does show that the name, which is applied only to him in the Bible, does roughly fit into the chronological and geographical context in which the Book of Judges places it.

In the Bible it appears only in Judges 6-9 and in 1 Samuel 12:11. It appears in bowdlerized form as Jerubboshet - "The shame strives" in 2 Samuel 11:21.

Jonathan son of King Saul had a son with the similar name Meribbaal, "Baal is striving." It too is bowdlerized into Mephiboshet, something like "one who spreads shame," in 2 Samuel, especially chapter 9, but in the correct form survives in 1 Chronicles 8:34. In general, Israelite names containing "Baal" got the "shame" treatment from later scribes.

The name Jerubbaal means "Baal strives." Judges presents it as a nickname of Gideon which disrespects Baal. It was always more likely that it was a perfectly good Canaanite name in honor of Baal. This inscription confirms the latter view.

In fact, I suspect Jeribai, the name of one of David's mghty men, in 1 Chronicles 11:46 is a nickname abbreviation of (otherwise unattested) Yeribiah, "YHWH strives." Likewise the name "Jarib" in 1 Chronicles 4:24 (cf. Ezra 8:16, 10:18). A god "striving" was a good thing.

The names Meribbaal and Ishbaal (e.g., 2 Samuel 2:8//1 Chronicles 8:33) may even indicate that Israel's God YHWH was sometimes known informally as Baal, "the Lord," in early Israel. If so, Jerubbaal may have been a normal Israelite name. The fact that we found it on an extremely rare inscription from the period of Judges implies that it was pretty common.

Cross-file under Onomastics.

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Israeli excavators shortlisted for Khaled al-Asaad award

RECOGNITION: Israeli archeologists could win prestigious award over 2nd Temple-era find. A dig in the Western Wall Tunnels in Jerusalem reveals a hidden underground complex that experts say was used by the Jews to prepare for religious services during the Second Temple period (Israel HaYom).
Israel is among the five candidate countries for the prestigious annual International Archaeological Discovery Award "Khaled al-Asaad" for an excavation conducted in the Western Wall Tunnels in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday.

A dig headed by Israeli archeologists Barak Monnickendam-Givon and Tehila Sadiel discovered a hidden underground complex that experts think was used by the Jews to prepare for religious services during the Second Temple period before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.


I noted the discovery of this underground complex here and here last year. For more on the Western Wall Tunnels excavations, see here and follow the links.

This is the first I remember hearing of the Khaled al-Asaad award. It is named after the antiquities chief of Palmyra, who was murdered by ISIS in 2015. Background here and links.

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How did Galileans get to Jerusalem?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: 3 Pilgrimage Paths from Galilee to Jerusalem. Explore first-century pilgrimage routes connecting Galilee and Judea (Megan Sauter). This BHD essay summarizes an article by Jeffrey P. García in the current issue of Bibical Archaeology Review. The article is behind the subscription wall.

Not mentioned in the essay (I haven't seen the article), but the first route, through Samaria, brings to mind the the story of the rejection of Jesus by the Samaritan village as he traveled to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-56). I assume the article discusses the passage.

The essay also made me think of the parable of the "good Samaritan" (Luke 10:29-37). A Samaritan saves a Jewish man who was waylaid by bandits on his travels between Jerusalem and Jericho. The story is obviously meant to overturn stereotypes about the Samaritans. Was Jesus underlining the point by making a Samaritan (one of the dangerous people on the first route) the rescuer of someone assaulted on the supposedly safer second route?

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Religion and the Arts - 25th anniversary volume

BRILL JUBILEE VOLUME: 25th Anniversary-Religion and the Arts
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Religion and the Arts, James Najarian has compiled a jubilee anthology of 25 articles – one from each year of the journal’s life. This exciting Editor’s Pick is available for free downloading until the end of 2021.
The volume is weighted toward the modern. But there are articles on Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, and women in the ancient synagogue paintings at Dura-Europos.

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Sunday, July 11, 2021

Stanley, A Bull for Pluto (NFB)

A Bull For Pluto: A Slave's Story, Book 2 Paperback – June 17, 2020
by Christopher D. Stanley (Author)

A slave without a past. A master without a future. A journey of discovery that will forever change the lives of both men. The ancient world comes alive in this vivid and engaging trilogy by an expert on Roman social history.

What if you suddenly discovered that you were not who you thought you were—that your true family history had been hidden from you since birth? What if the truth about your origins would cause others to despise you? What if the man who had arranged the deception was seriously ill and needed your help? What if you were a slave and that man held your life in his hands—and you his? These are some of the questions explored in the first two volumes of the new historical trilogy, A Slave’s Story.

The story centers on a slave named Marcus who manages the business affairs of a wealthy Roman citizen in central Asia Minor in the first century AD. The first volume, A Rooster for Asklepios, narrates his eventful journey to a famous healing center in western Turkey following a dream in which the god Asklepios appears to promise that his master will be cured there of a nagging illness. The second volume, A Bull for Pluto, relates the aftermath of this journey. .

Along the way, both men encounter people and ideas that undermine everything that they have ever believed about themselves, one another, and the world around them. Societal norms are challenged, personal loyalties tested, and identities transformed in this engaging story that brings to life a unique corner of the Roman world that has been neglected by previous storytellers.

Christopher D. Stanley is a professor at St. Bonaventure University who studies the social history of early Christianity and the Greco-Roman world. He has written or edited six books and dozens of professional articles on the subject and presents papers regularly at conferences around the world. The trilogy A Slave’s Story, which grew out of his historical research on first-century Asia Minor, is his first work of fiction. . For more information please visit

I noted a review by Phil Long of A Rooster for Asklepios here. He also reviewed A Bull for Pluto here. And at the Bible Places Blog, Todd Bolen has reviewed A Rooster for Asklepios here.

The author's website for the series (a projected trilogy) is here.

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10 questions & answers about the DSS

LIST: 10 Questions About the Dead Sea Scrolls Answered (Lexie Herman, Honest Reporting).
As some of the most important archaeological finds in the world, the Dead Sea Scrolls have provided an unparalleled look into Israel’s past. Yet, despite their significance they are rarely mentioned outside of academic and research settings.

So, what exactly are the Dead Sea Scrolls and why are they important? The following answers the questions you might have about the Scrolls and what they mean in terms of Jewish history.

I could quibble about some of the details in this article. But it is an adequate overview of the Scrolls aimed at the novice.

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