Saturday, January 15, 2022

Greenstein Festschrift (SBL)

Ve-’Ed Ya‘aleh (Gen 2:6), Volume 1: Essays in Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies Presented to Edward L. Greenstein

Peter Machinist, Robert A. Harris, Joshua A. Berman, Nili Samet, Noga Ayali-Darshan, editors

ISBN 9781628372977
Volume WAWSup 5
Status Available
Publication Date September 2021
Paperback $80.00
Hardback $100.00
eBook $80.00

Sixty-six colleagues, friends, and former students of Edward L. Greenstein present essays honoring him upon his retirement. Throughout Greenstein’s half-century career he demonstrated expertise in a host of areas astonishing in its breadth and depth, and each of the essays in these two volumes focuses on an area of particular interest to him. Volume 1 includes essays on ancient Near Eastern studies, Biblical Hebrew and Northwest Semitic languages, and biblical law and narrative. Volume 2 includes essays on biblical wisdom and poetry, biblical reception and exegesis, and postmodern readings of the Bible.

For volume 2, see here.

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Lozinskyy, The Feasts of the Calendar in the Book of Numbers (Mohr Siebeck)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Hryhoriy Lozinskyy. The Feasts of the Calendar in the Book of Numbers. Num 28:16–30:1 in the Light of Related Biblical Texts and Some Ancient Sources of 200 BCE-100 CE. 2022. XVII, 283 pages. Forschungen zum Alten Testament 2. Reihe 132. 79,00 € including VAT. sewn paper ISBN 978-3-16-160782-0.
Published in English.
In this monograph, Hryhoriy Lozinskyy studies five feasts contained in Num 28:16–30:1. Each of them is first treated in the light of biblical calendars and other related texts. The calendar in Numbers is later than an earlier version of Leviticus 23; yet the final form of Lev 23:1–44 is also a result of some later additions that took place after Num 28:1–30:1 had been composed. The author also focuses on the history of interpretation: he examines several pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and ancient Jewish writers from 200 BCE to 100 CE. He shows how these ancient sources reworked the biblical texts by expansions, clarifications, and omissions. In sum, the calendar in Numbers employs several previous traditions that dealt with the feasts, sacrifices, and calendars in order to compose the detailed list of the offerings for the appointed times. Moreover, it is a text that has been used by many ancient sources, especially in the matter of the sacrifices.

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Friday, January 14, 2022

The Bible as a tour guide?

HISTORICAL GEOGRAPHY AND TRAVEL: Using the Bible as an Archaeological Travel Guide to Israel. There are hundreds of biblical sites in Israel – some have been identified with certainty by archaeologists while others require an act of faith. To what extent can we use the Tanakh, and its stories of David and Goliath, Samson et al, as a reliable tour guide? (Moshe Gilad, Haaretz).
Is it generally possible to use the Tanakh as our guidebook? At what sites should that be done? How certain is the identification of biblical sites with contemporary landmarks? And what is the attraction of a tour with the Tanakh? Is a Tel Azeqa tour in the company of David and Goliath more interesting than a tour observing the trees and cyclamens that are beginning to bloom all around? And of course: is there anyone who exploits the connection between the present site and the legendary-historical past? Is it proof of our “right” to the Valley of Elah?
Even if we think of the stories in the Bible primarily as stories, the tellers generally set these stories in familiar locations. Most of the settings are real, whatever you make of the stories.

An informative article that interviews two archaeologists and an anthropologist.

For related thoughts on the Bible, see the immediately preceding post here.

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Review of Dever, Has Archaeology Buried the Bible?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Review: Has Archaeology Buried the Bible? (Jennie Ebeling).
Has Archaeology Buried the Bible?
By William G. Dever
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2020), x + 158 pp., 24 maps and drawings, $25.99 (hardcover)
Reviewed by Jennie Ebeling

... In this book, the prolific and outspoken archaeologist who played an important role in orienting biblical archaeology away from the concerns of its early parochial practitioners boldly asserts that archaeological discoveries can serve as moral guides. In addition to its value for illuminating the biblical world in general and ancient Israel in particular, Dever argues, archaeology can help modern readers “find things that they can still believe in reading the Bible—things for which they need to offer no apologies” (p. 144). ...

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William Ross was reading in 2021

WILLIAM A ROSS: MY 2021 READING. He read about the Septuagint, of course, but also many other things

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

Thursday, January 13, 2022

On Yadin and Sukenik

ARCHAEOLOGICAL BIOGRAPHY: ‘Digging’ Into The Yadin/Sukenik Archaeological Family (Saul Jay Singer, The Jewish Press).
Yigael Yadin nee Sukenik (he changed his name at Ben Gurion’s request based upon Genesis 49:16, “Dan yadin amo – the tribe of Dan will judge his nation”) was a warrior, scholar, and statesman who achieved great success and fame in three distinct areas. First, he was an outstanding military commander who played an important role in achieving Israel’s birth as a Jewish state and served as Israel’s chief of staff; second, he was a world-renowned archaeologist who achieved great fame for the two greatest archaeological finds of modern Israel, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Masada; and third, he was a statesman who founded a new Knesset party and served as Israel’s deputy prime minister. [...]
This article has a long account of the life and work of Yadin and a shorter one of his father, Eliezer Sukenik. For more on Yadin and the Bar Kokhba letters, see here, here and here. For the complicated problem of the archaeology of the fall of Masada, see here, here, here, and follow the links.

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More from the Sifting Project on those Hebrew seals

Is not this laid up in store with Me, sealed up in My treasuries?

Deut. 32:34

A study we have conducted on dozens of clay sealings recovered in sifting of Temple Mount soil and in excavations at the Ophel Park (adjacent to the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount) has successfully identified evidence of both the Temple Treasury and the Royal Treasury of the Kingdom of Judah.

The post contains a link to the text of the full article forthcoming in the Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology.

I noted the story here last week.

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

Review of Gordon, Land and Temple

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Book Note | Land and Temple: Field Sacralization and the Agrarian Priesthood of Second Temple Judaism (Joseph Scales).
Gordon, Benjamin D. Land and Temple: Field Sacralization and the Agrarian Priesthood of Second Temple Judaism. SJ 87. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2020.

... In some way, approaching an all-encompassing theme like “economy” while simultaneously trying to limit the discussion to elements related specifically to the Jerusalem Temple achieves few tangible and overarching conclusions, but the book does succeed in providing many new insights into a wide range of discussions. The volume is therefore of great use to scholars and students in many related sub-fields of biblical studies, ancient history and archaeology. ...

I noted the publication of the book here and a related essay by its author here.

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Pseudo-Philo on women in Judges

DR. CARYN TAMBER-ROSENAU: Deborah, Yael and Sisera’s Mother, Themech (
Biblical Antiquities, circa 1st cent. C.E., retells the story of Judges 4–5. It expands the maternal imagery of Deborah and Yael, develops the character of Sisera’s mother, and adds sexual innuendo to Yael’s interactions with Sisera.
For more on Pseudo-Philo's Biblical Antiquities (Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum) see here here. For more on its treatment of the Book of Judges, see here.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Abandoned Jewish town in Morocco rediscovered

SALVAGE ARCHAEOLOGY: Synagogue Ruins Tell Secrets of Jewish Community in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. A team of Israeli, Moroccan and French researchers on a rescue excavation at a ruined synagogue in Morocco found amulets, the last remnants of a bygone community. The project will soon be expanded to the entire region, under royal sponsorship (Ofer Aderet, Haaretz).
Remainders of a Jewish-Moroccan community that existed for centuries were recently found in a remote town in the Atlas Mountains, on the edge of the Sahara Desert. The small Jewish community of Tamanart lived there from the 16th century to the early 19th century. Recently, researchers from Israel, Morocco and France conducted salvage excavations in its ruined synagogue.

Along with the building’s walls, they found Scriptures and pages from the synagogue’s genizah, a repository for damaged written matter and ritual objects, as well as a few paper amulets. One was meant to protect a woman in labor and her newborn, another a personal charm meant to protect its owner from trouble and disease. “The texts in these amulets are based on formulas found in the Book of Raziel, an ancient Kabbalist book,” says Orit Ouaknine-Yekutieli, a researcher of modern Morocco who teaches at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The book, which includes texts for charms, was in use by Jewish communities in Morocco.


This discovery falls far outside PaleoJudaica's usual range, but it is too interesting not to note.

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

Was Job a zombie?

MONSTER THEORY: Goliath, Job and Other Monsters of the Hebrew Bible (S.I. Rosenbaum, The Jewish Experience - Brandeis University)
People read the Hebrew Bible for all sorts of things — spiritual guidance, literary inspiration, moral enlightenment.

Assistant professor of Hebrew Bible Madadh Richey looks for monsters.

She finds them everywhere — in the Book of Numbers, where God sends snakes to punish the Israelites; to the mysterious nephilim, sons of God, in Genesis who cohabitate with human women; to the more well-known ones such as the Leviathan, the giant fish in Jonah, and the demoness Lilith.


Another post on Monster Theory and the Hebrew Bible is here. See also here.

For PaleoJudaica posts on the Nephilim, see here and links. For some posts on Leviathan and its land counterpart Behemoth, see here and links. For many posts on Lilith, see here and links. Some posts on the biblical giant Goliath are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. I have collected some other giant-related posts here. And how can we omit the post-biblical monster the Golem in this discussion?

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

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

More on Cleopatra and Judaism

QUEEN CLEOPATRA VII (THE CLEOPATRA) has been in the news a lot lately, ever since the media heard about the the upcoming movie starring Gal Gadot. Ms. Gadot stirred things up last week in a interview:
"I can't reveal a lot, but I can tell you that we're going to celebrate the Cleopatra story," she told InStyle. "We're going to show not just how sexy and appealing she was, but how strategic and smart, and how much impact she had and still has on the world we're living in today.

"I've watched all the Cleopatra movies throughout history, but I feel like we're telling the story the world needs to hear now."

Meanwhile, Dr. Yvette Alt Miller has published an article in Heritage Florida Jewish News on Cleopatra and the Jews.
Cleopatra was a complex figure. Cleopatra VII (there were many Queen Cleopatras in Egypt. The final queen is the most famous) lived 69-30 BCE, and reigned during a tumultuous time in Egyptian history. Her political life touched on many regions, including far away Israel and Rome. Cleopatra didn't rule in a vacuum - she was a real woman, who played a central role in Middle Eastern politics. No matter how much we think we know about Cleopatra, there's always more to discover.

Here are seven surprising facts about Cleopatra and her important relationship with the land of Israel and ancient Jews.

I have mentioned before that (according to Plutarch) Cleopatra spoke Aramaic and Hebrew. This article adds quite a lot about her connections with first-century BCE Judaism.

For many PaleoJudaica posts on Cleopatra VII, start here and follow the links.

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

Mary the "Tower of Faith?"

NICKNAME ONONMASTICS: Was Mary Magdalene really from Magdala? Two scholars examine the evidence. The two scholars suggest Magdalene may well be an honorific from the Hebrew and Aramaic words meaning ‘tower’ or ‘magnify’ (Yonat Shimron, RNS).
In a paper published last month, Elizabeth Schrader, a Ph.D. student at Duke University, and Joan Taylor, a professor at King’s College, London, argue that the assumption Magdala refers to Mary’s place of origin is entirely speculative.

Instead, they say, Magdalene may well be an honorific from the Hebrew and Aramaic roots for “tower” or “magnified.”

Just as the Apostle Peter is given the epithet “rock,” (“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church”), Mary could well have acquired a title “Magdalene” meaning “tower of faith,” or “Mary the magnified.”

The link to the underlying article the Journal of Biblical Literature is via JSTOR. The abstract is free, but the article is behind a subscription wall.

Some PaleoJudaica posts on Mary Magdalene in recent years are here, here, here, here, and here.

For many posts on the ancient city of Magdala (Migdal today), the two first-century synagogues excavated there, and the Magdala Stone found in the first synagogue, start here and follow the links.

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

A Sasanian-era inscription mentioning Zoroaster

PAHLAVI EPIGRAPHY: Centuries-old inscription discovered near Istakhr ancient city (Tehran Times).
TEHRAN –A Sassanid-era (224–651) rock-carved inscription has recently been discovered near the ancient city of Istakhr, in Marvdasht plain, which is home to the UNESCO-registered sites of Persepolis and Pasargadae as well as tens of other magnificent structures, in southern Fars province.

The inscription bears Middle Persian (or Pahlavi) script in six lines, Said Hamid Fadai who presides over Persepolis World Heritage site.

Because of erosion of the inscription, specialized archaeologists and historians have read and translated it carefully, the official added.

The name of Zarathustra [Zoroaster] is engraved on this inscription that measures 40 by 35 centimeters, he noted.

The name Zarathustra has appeared in historical paper documents, but this is the first time it has been identified on an inscription, he explained.


Some PaleoJudaica posts on or involving the Persian prophet Zoroaster are here, here, here, here, here, and here. Zoroastrianism had some influence – how much is debated – on ancient Judaism.

For more on the Sasanian (Sassanian) Empire, see here and links.

For many PaleoJudaica posts on the ancient city of Persepolis, see here and links. The Tomb of Cyrus the Great is at Pasargade.

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

Monday, January 10, 2022

Steinhardt artifacts at the Israel Museum

PROBLEM ARTIFACTS: Billionaire's looted art still on display at Israel Museum (Ilan Ben Zion, PhysOrg.).
One of the Israel Museum's biggest patrons, American billionaire Michael Steinhardt, approached the flagship Israeli art institution in 2007 with an artifact he had recently bought: a 2,200-year-old Greek text carved into limestone.

But shortly after it went on display, an expert noticed something odd—two chunks of text found a year earlier during a dig near Jerusalem fit the limestone slab like a jigsaw puzzle. It soon became clear that Steinhardt's tablet came from the same cave where the other fragments were excavated.

Last month, Steinhardt surrendered the piece, known as the Heliodorus Stele, and 179 other artifacts valued at roughly $70 million as part of a landmark deal with the Manhattan District Attorney's office to avoid prosecution. Eight Neolithic masks loaned by Steinhardt to the Israel Museum for a major exhibition in 2014 were also seized under the deal, including two that remain exhibited at the museum.


I have been following the Steinhardt saga, but have not posted on it until now. This is the first time it has overlapped with PaleoJudaica's interests. You can read the full story, for example, in this Live Science article by Ben Turner: Billionaire hands over $70 million of stolen artifacts. The haul includes stone death masks and a chest for human remains. Executive summary:
A billionaire hedge-fund manager has surrendered 180 stolen artifacts worth $70 million and has received a lifetime ban on acquiring more relics as part of a deal struck with the Manhattan district attorney's office.
No one is accusing the Israel Museum of any wrongdoing. According to the PhysOrg article, the Manhattan DA says that the three objects still on display "are 'effectively seized in place.'" The DA "has opened talks with Israel to coordinate the return of" some artifacts.

As for the artifacts discussed in the current article, I posted on the Heliodorus inscription here, here, here, and here. By the end of 2009 it was clear that it was genuine, after fragments of it were excavated at Maresha. There were also serious concerns by then about whether it had been looted. The Greek City Times has an article on this object: US billionaire’s stolen ancient Greek Heliodorus Stele remain on display at Israel Museum. The other two surrended artifacts still on display there are the abovementioned neolithic masks.

I don't think I knew about the Royal Moabite Inscription loaned to the Israel Museum by Steinhardt. It is on display at the Israel Museum, but is not part of the Mahattan DA's looting investigation.

The best-known Moabite inscription is, of course, the Mesha Stele (or Moabite stone), on which PaleoJudaica has many posts. Another fragment of a lapidary inscription in Moabite was found in El-Kerak in 1958. It is in the Jordan Archaeological Museum. And 2019 saw the publication of an inscribed Moabite altar that was excavated in Jordan.

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

The Talmudic Encyclopedia is 75

TALMUD WATCH: The Talmudic Encyclopedia Reaches 75 (Toby Klein Greenwald, The Jewish Press).
An event honoring the 75th anniversary of the Talmudic Encyclopedia took place on December 30 at the residence of the President of Israel, Isaac Herzog. It was especially moving because it also marked three generations of involvement of the Herzog family in the project.

The event was also to honor Rabbi Hershel Schachter, the leading rosh yeshiva and rosh kollel at Yeshiva University, halachic advisor for the Orthodox Union, advisor and mentor for the Rabbinical Council of America, and world-renowned posek. The Talmudic Encyclopedia will dedicate a future volume to Rav Shachter.

The 48th volume was released just a few days before the event. It is hoped that the project will be completed by 2024.


This is a long and informative article.

I noted this project in 2015, when the editors annouced plans to put it online. The project's website is here. It was conceived of in 1942 and the first volume was published in 1947. In 2015 there were 33 volumes out, so there has been good progress in the intervening years.

Cross-file under Encyclopedia Talmudit.

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

Volume 6 of Italian Talmud translation published

TALMUD WATCH: Sixth volume of Italian translation of Talmud released. The sixth volume of an Italian translation of the Talmud was recently published in Italy (Arutz Sheva).

I have nicknamed this translation the cyborg's Talmud, for reasons explained here. Follow the links from there for more posts on the Italian Talmud. Cross-file under Algorithm Watch.

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

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Kazen, Impurity and Purification in Early Judaism and the Jesus Tradition (SBL)

Impurity and Purification in Early Judaism and the Jesus Tradition
Thomas Kazen

ISBN 9781628374100
Volume RBS 98
Status Available
Publication Date October 2021
Paperback $55.00
Hardback $75.00
eBook $55.00

This collection of essays by Thomas Kazen focuses on issues of purity and purification in early Judaism and the Jesus tradition. During the late Second Temple period, Jewish purity practices became more prominent than before and underwent substantial developments. These essays advance the ongoing conversation and debate about a number of key issues in the field, such as the relationship between ritual and morality, the role and function of metaphor, and the use of evolutionary and embodied perspectives. Kazen’s research stands in constant dialogue with the major currents and main figures in purity research, including both historical (origin, development, practice) and cognitive (evolutionary, emotional, conceptual) approaches.

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

Croy, Sequencing the Hebrew Bible (Sheffield Phoenix/SBL)

Sequencing the Hebrew Bible: The Order of the Books
Casey K. Croy

ISBN 9781910928882
Status Available
Publication Date
September 2021

If the order of the Hebrew Bible’s books is significant, as many believe, why did differing arrangements of the Hebrew Bible emerge over time? This is a crucial question for Bible readers generally and especially for scholars of compilational criticism—the study of how the books of the Hebrew Bible were arranged in their various orders. Yet few compilational critics offer a solution to this problem and several fail even to recognize the issue.

Sequencing the Hebrew Bible makes the novel proposal that multiple orders are part of the compositional intent of the framers of the Hebrew Bible. That is, those responsible for producing the final form of the Hebrew Bible’s text created multiple ways in which its books could be meaningfully arranged. No single arrangement, as found in ancient manuscripts and lists of the books, can fully account for the compositional intent of these framers. The task of the compilational critic is to identify these arrangements, classify them, and evaluate the effect of these varying arrangements.

This solution has implications both for the production of modern Bibles and for biblical theology. While some interested in compilational criticism argue that modern Bibles should be reorganized to reflect earlier arrangements of the biblical books, this study would suggest that such attempts would be limited in value. For only one of the several attested arrangements could be presented in any printed Bible. As for the idea of attempting to arrange the Bible chronologically, this study argues that to do so would inhibit the reader’s understanding of the design of the biblical authors. Since biblical theology bridges the gap between historical-critical and theological studies, internal tensions between historical and theological analyses are often apparent within biblical theology. Compilational criticism helps to relieve these tensions by showing how theology underlies the formation of the Hebrew Bible.

SBL Press is the North American distributor for Sheffield Phoenix Press. Customers outside of North America can purchase this book directly from Sheffield Phoenix by clicking here.

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