Saturday, February 26, 2022

Geniza Fragments 80 - final issue

GENIZA FRAGMENTS, the Newsletter of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit, Cambridge University Library, has published its final issue, Issue 80. It has been out since October, but I just noticed it. The Newsletter was on hold during the pandemic. The newsletter page explains the reasons for the discontinuation:
Due to difficulties accessing printing and mailing resources during the pandemic, we have decided to retire the ‘Genizah Fragments’ newsletter with a final edition this autumn (2021). However, you will still be able to keep up with Genizah news through our blog page which went live this summer.
The final issue highlights some recent discoveries, looks at geniza studies in the time of Covid, and has a retrospective on the Newsletter.

I read the Geniza Fragments blog and link to it from time to time.

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Zhakevich, A Targumist Interprets the Torah (Brill)

A Targumist Interprets the Torah: Contradictions and Coherence in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan

Series: Supplement to Aramaic Studies, Volume: 17

Author: Iosif J Zhakevich

This book conducts a focused study of contradictions and coherence in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan. The first section of this study examines the apparent disruption of congruity with regard to the vertical dimension of the Targum, that is, between the Torah (the Hebrew Vorlage) and the Targum (the Aramaic translation). The second section addresses the apparent disruption of congruity with regard to the horizontal dimension of the Targum, that is, within the boundaries of the TgPsJ corpus. Ultimately, this work suggests that the contradictions are given to resolution, once the greater context of biblical and Jewish tradition is taken into consideration.

Prices from (excl. VAT): €129.00 / $155.00

Copyright Year: 2022

E-Book (PDF)
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-50383-0
Publication Date: 17 Jan 2022

Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-50384-7
Publication Date: 20 Jan 2022

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Friday, February 25, 2022

An archaeological park in Beit Shemesh

COMMUNITY-FRIENDLY ARCHAEOLOGY: Beit Shemesh Tel Yarmuth urban archaeology park test case for new cooperation. Archaeologists have been working for a decade to integrate a park located in the middle of a new religious neighborhood into the community (JUDITH SUDILOVSKY, Jerusalem Post). This article rambles, but some key points are here:
BECAUSE OF previous excavations at Tel Yarmuth almost 20 years ago by Pierre de Miroschedji, archaeologists already knew there were ancient ruins at the site, said [IAA Judea region archaeologist Anna] Eirikh-Rose. And they also knew that in order for the community to embrace the planned archaeological park as its own, they would need to reach out to the residents to become a part of the project of restoration and preservation.

It is a project that has occupied them for nearly 10 years, hosting holiday events and workshops, educational programs for schools, and opportunities for families to take part in the excavations, getting a largely religious population involved in something very new for them. Since the area is to be an unstaffed park, it was important to get the population involved already at the ground level so they can see importance in preserving it and taking care of it, noted Wolicki.

For many posts on Beth Shemesh (Beit Shemesh) and its archaeology, see here and here and links.

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Nongbri on the DSS attributed to Cave One (HTR article)

VARIANT READINGS: New Article on the Dead Sea Scrolls said to come from Cave 1Q. Brent Nongbri has just published this article in the Harvard Theological Review. It is behind a subscription wall, but you can read the abstract here.

It is the final product of themes he explored in a series of blog posts, to which he links. I followed and noted many of them here and links.

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Review of McDowell et al. (eds.), Diversity and Rabbinization

GENIZA FRAGMENTS BLOG: Book: Diversity and Rabbinization, edited by Gavin McDowell, Ron Naiweld and Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra (Nadia Vidro).
... Recent research suggests that the majority of post-70 CE Jews in Palestine and in the Diaspora may have been non-rabbinic and understood in many different ways what it meant to be Jewish. How then did it happen that by the second millennium CE most Jews became rabbinic?

This question takes centre stage in a new Open Access book Diversity and Rabbinization: Jewish Texts and Societies between 400 and 1000 CE, edited by Gavin McDowell, Ron Naiweld and Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra. This collection of articles surveys the cultural and religious diversity in Near Eastern and European Jewish communities from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages and tackles the difficult question of the rabbinization of Jewish society.

I noted the publication of the book here.

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Thursday, February 24, 2022

Timothy Lim reflects on his career

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Retrospective | Timothy Lim.
The invitation is to reflect on my contribution to the Dead Sea Scrolls and Early Judaism, so I will leave out other fields to which I have also contributed, including the study of the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, Hellenistic Judaism, New Testament, and Rabbinics. I will reflect on my contribution to the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and research on the canon.

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Stoneman, A History of Alexander the Great in World Culture (CUP)

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: . Notice of a New Book: Stoneman, Richard (ed.). 2022. A History of Alexander the Great in World Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

I note the article "Alexander in Ancient Jewish Literature" by Ory Amitay as of special interest.

For many PaleoJudaica posts on Alexander and his connection with ancient Jewish traditions, see here and links and here.

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30 externally verified people in the NT

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: 30 People in the New Testament Confirmed. A web-exclusive supplement to Lawrence Mykytiuk's BAR articles identifying real New Testament political and religious figures.

That's seven more than in his previous list. Both lists include two "almost real" people and some unverified (allegedly prominent) ones.

For more on Lawrence Mykytiuk's work on external verification of the existence of persons mentioned in the Bible (both Hebrew Bible and New Testament), start here and follow the links.

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

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

How much medieval (and ancient) literature is lost?

STATISTICAL RECOVERY OF GHOST MANUSCRIPTS: Study finds 90 percent of medieval chivalric and heroic manuscripts have been lost. Researchers used ecological "unseen species" model to estimate size of medieval European lit (Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica).
But can an ecological model really be applied so readily to such a markedly different scholarly domain? "Intuitively, it's a weird thing to say that a literary work behaves like a species," Kestemont acknowledged. "In fact, this method isn't even specific to ecology." Chao1 is so general that it's been used in lots of other fields, with "species" standing in for classes of stone tools (archaeology); types of die for ancient coins (numismatics); different causes for a given disease (epidemiology); genes or alleles (genetics); and distinct vocabulary words (linguistics), to name a few.

"It's even been used to estimate the number of stars in a galaxy or the number of bugs in a piece of software that haven't been discovered yet," said Kestemont. "The real question is 'in which conditions wouldn't we be able to apply it?'" As long as you can distinguish something akin to "species," the model works very well.

In adapting the model, Kestemont and his co-authors treated literary works as species and manuscript copies as sightings of a species. They counted works that only appeared sparsely in the historical record and then used those counts to calculate F0—in this case, the number of works that once existed but scholars have never observed. A work was considered "lost" when none of the documents that once preserved it still survived.

I would say that is a fair standard for "lost."

Seriously, this looks like a useful statistical method. I don't know how well it would work for manuscripts of ancient literature. The sample is smaller and the chronological gap between many of our surviving manuscripts and the originals is much wider. But it might be worth trying.

Intuitively, I would guess that the survival rate for ancient (i.e., let's say, pre-Islamic) literary manuscripts from the Middle East and the Mediterranean regions would be on the order of 1% or less, and shrinking the farther back you go.

By "manuscripts" I mean works written on papyrus and parchment. Mesopotamian literature inscribed in cuneiform on clay tablets is a different problem.

The underlying article in Science is behind a subscription wall. Cross-file under Lost Books.

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A "docu-series" on the biblical giants and the nephilim

TELEVISION: Evidence of ‘biblical giants’ found in northern Israe.l New docu-series to present rare, researched look at the Nephilim (ADAM ELIYAHU BERKOWITZ, Jerusalem Post).

The article evidences no scholarly or academic connections to this documentary series. The series looks to be pretty well informed on ancient legends about the nephilim and the giants, notably Og. Apparently it tries to connect Og to a cool fourth-millennium BCE archaeological site.

I suppose it is plausible that the biblical legends about the giants, including Og and his iron bed, were influenced by the local already-ancient ruins of megascale architecture. Whether the site of Gilgal Refaim was among them I don't know.

I'm not expecting to see the notions presented in the series in any peer-review publications. But it might be fun to watch as a modern continuation of the midrashic legends about the giants.

If, that is, they find a distributor.

For PaleoJudaica posts on the Nephilim, start here and follow the links. For posts on Og the giant, see here and links. Oddly, the article makes no mention of the ancient Book of Giants. There are also many other posts on the biblical giants, Goliath, the Rephaim, etc. in the PaleoJudaica archives.

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

Online lecture on the Mount Zion cryptic stone cup inscription

H-JUDAIC: EVENT: The Cryptic Inscription of Mount Zion, Jerusalem: Ritual and Theonyms (February 23). Tonight at 7:00 pm GMT, a lecture by Professor David Hamidovic at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland). Follow the link for (free) registration information.
A unique ten-line Aramaic inscription on the side of a stone cup commonly used for ritual purity during Second Temple times was uncovered during archaeological excavations on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion in June 2002. Inscriptions of this kind are extremely rare and only a handful have been found in scientific excavations made within the city. The new inscription, from the first century CE was deciphered by a team of epigraphic experts in an effort to determine the meaning of the text, which is clear but cryptic. David Hamidovic proposes a new attempt at deciphering by studying the so-called "cryptic" script. The preserved text and the archaeological context give a better understanding of the function of the artefact. A ritual containing the name of the deity (theonym) is one possibility.
PaleoJudaica posts pertaining to the Mount Zion cryptic stone cup inscription are here and links, here, here, and here. It's been a long time since I have heard anything about it.

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

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Byzantine-era marble pillar found in Ashdod

ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE: Byzantine marble pillar discovered in Ashdod sand dunes during police patrol. The pillar may have belonged to a church that was located in the area (JUDITH SUDILOVSKY, Jerusalem Post).
Two policemen from the city of Ashdod on their routine patrol in the dunes of the city last week uncovered a piece of history: an impressive 1,500-year-old marble pillar was uncovered on the beach.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) estimates that the pillar is part of the remains of the Byzantine Church which was located in the area some 1,500 years ago.


For more on the graves at Ashdod's basilica of the deaconesses, see here. For the Georgian church at Ashdod-Yam, whose date is similar to that of the pillar, see here. For more on the famous late-antique Madaba Map mosaic of the Holy Land, see here and links.

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

Lions in Israel and the Bible

VIDEO: Wildlife of the Holy Land: Lions in ancient Jerusalem (i24news).

For more on Daniel in the Lions' den (Daniel 6), see here and links. Do not try this at home!

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

Hixton on no-longer-first-century Mark

THE ETC BLOG: Hixson on Lesson from P137 or “First-Century Mark” (Peter Gurry).

Dr. Hixton's essay on the no-longer-first-century Mark manuscript draws some valuable conclusions from the whole sad affair and is well worth reading.

I underline his first lesson: "If something sounds too good to be true, it might be. Assume it is until there is an informed scholarly consensus." I have made the same point: "... if it's too good to be true, it probably isn't." I call this the "lottery rule." If someone reports a new discovery that is the scholarly equivalent to our having won the lottery, we should assume it is fake news unless we have strong evidence otherwise.

I have applied his second lesson as well: "Overhyped expectations can result in undervaluing the actual evidence." A genuinely important discovery can be overshadowed by overdone claims, especially of some direct biblical connection, to try to get media attention. This is the principle of contrast at work. The discovery itself could be quite interesting on its own terms, but the dubious overhyped claim makes it seem less so. An example is the supposed house of Jesus in Nazareth.

Hixton's third lesson: "Don’t cite unpublished research," parallels the point I often make that the scholarly discussion of a supposed discovery does not even begin until it passes the (rather low) bar of peer-review publication. I raised the issue recently, for example, regarding the Newark Stones and some new (reportedly) late-antique Mandean amulets. I raised it regarding the ink of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife papyrus, which papyrus has since been debunked as a modern hoax. And I have raised it repeatedly about the Jordanian Lead Codices, on which, to my knowledge, no peer-reviewed publication has yet appeared nearly eleven years after the announcement of their discovery. I have collected additional thoughts on peer review here.

As for Hixton's final lesson, "Show integrity at earliest possible opportunity," when you make an error (you will!), make sure to correct it as soon as you become aware of it. Cf., in the last several years, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

For many PaleoJudaica posts on the no-longer-first-century Mark fragment saga, see here, here, here, here, and here, and follow all the links.

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

Monday, February 21, 2022

How did Aramaic extinguish Akkadian?

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: Language Death—The Case of Akkadian (Johannes Hackl).
The most prominent Western example of a dead language is Latin, which eventually developed into the Romance languages. Akkadian, the earliest attested Semitic language, on the other hand, is an extinct language—from which it follows that there are no known languages that descended from it. The most common explanation for the absence of daughter languages is that Akkadian, the language of the Assyrians and Babylonians, was eclipsed by Aramaic (i.e., Old and Official Aramaic) rather early during the first millennium BCE.
For more on the scribal relationship between Akkadian and Aramaic, see here, here, here, and here.

Akkadian may be extinct, but it is not forgotten. Nor should it be! See my long post from 2010, Why we need Akkadian (and the humanities!). And a related post is here.

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Orion Center Zoom Symposium

ORION CENTER UPCOMING SYMPOSIUM: The Seventeenth International Orion Symposium “(Con)textual Perspectives on the Dead Sea Scrolls.” ZOOM WEBINAR, FEBRUARY 28 TO MARCH 3, 2022.
The Seventeenth International Orion Symposium, “(Con)textualPerspectives on the Dead Sea Scrolls,” will take place from February 28 to March 3, 2022, online. Scholars from Israel, North America, and Europe will share aspects of their current research, relating their topic to broader contexts (literary, cultural, social, and/or historical). Papers will examine a diverse group of texts and writing practices from an equally diverse range of perspectives, using a variety of traditional and innovative methodological frameworks.
For the program and registration information, follow the link. Attendance is free, but requires preregistration.

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Sunday, February 20, 2022

How did Israelites care for their dead?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Cult of the Dead in the Bible. How Israelites cared for their dead kin (Marek Dospěl). This essay is a summary introduction to an article by Kerry M. Sonia in the current issue of BAR.

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TikTok Talmud controversy

TALMUD WATCH: Meet the TikTok star making Daf Yomi relatable for millennials, Gen Z. Miriam Anzovin is the millennial TikToker making Gemara more accessible on one of today's leading social media platforms (Aaron Reich, Jerusalem Post).

Ms. Anzovin's videos are generating some controversy. Have a look and see what you think. I blog, you decide.

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