Saturday, April 23, 2022

Jesus walking on water as a resurrection appearance?

NOTED BELATEDLY FOR EASTER: Walking on the Water (Philip Jenkins, The Anxious Bench). Professor Jenkins argues that the story of Jesus walking on the water in the Gospels is a repurposed resurrection-appearance story.
Over the past week, we have heard a great deal about Jesus’s Resurrection, open tombs, and Jerusalem gardens, and the same topics will dominate the lectionary readings and sermons for next Sunday. Here is another view of the story. I want to suggest that we actually possess an alternative version of the very earliest story of a Resurrection appearance, and we don’t have to go some fringe source or “Gnostic Gospel” to find it. It’s hidden in plain sight. And you already know the story very well indeed.


Maybe. I'm skeptical.
  • Paul's account (1 Corinthians 15:5) says that Jesus appeared first to Cephas (Peter) and then to the Twelve. All versions of the walking-on-water story (Mark 6:47-51, Matthew 14:22-33, John 6:16-21) have him appearing to the disciples, with Peter presumably among them. Only Matthew singles him out. This does not sound like the appearance to Peter alone implied by Paul.
  • If the walking-on-water episode was originally the resurrection appearance to Peter, why does Matthew alone mention him? Why did Mark and John ignore Peter, the star of the story?
  • Elsewhere Matthew increases Peter's role in a story (Mark 8:27-30 // Matthew 16:13-22). It seems more plausible to me that he is doing that again in the walking-on-water story, rather than Mark and John having a diluted version of the story that dropped both the resurrection element and the centrality of Peter.
  • The miscellaneous parallels to resurrection stories are mostly thematic rather than verbal. And note that in Mark's story of the calming of the Sea of Galilee (4:35-41), he says to the disciples, "Why are you afraid? Do you have no faith?" (v.40). These are not sentiments limited to the resurrection narratives, unless you want to argue that this story too is a misplaced resurrection narrative.
But still, it's possible that the walking-on-the-water story started as a resurrection story. I doubt we will ever know.

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Kugler, Resolving Disputes in Second Century BCE Herakleopolis (Brill)

Resolving Disputes in Second Century BCE Herakleopolis

A Study in Jewish Legal Reasoning in Hellenistic Egypt

Series: Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, Volume: 201

Author: Robert A. Kugler

Resolving Disputes challenges the consensus that the petitions to the leaders of “the πολίτευμα of the Jews in Herakleopolis” (P.Polit.Iud. 8.4-5) prove that while the Ptolemies granted Jews limited self-governance according to their ancestral traditions, the petitioners nonetheless relied almost exclusively on Ptolemaic Greek law to make their agreements and settle their arguments. Reading the appeals in their proper juridical context, this study shows how these Jewish petitioners in fact made sophisticated use of their ancestral norms, drawing from them principles that complemented and contradicted prevailing Greek law. The Jews appealing to the leaders of the πολίτευμα in Herakleopolis embraced Torah.

Copyright Year: 2022

Prices from (excl. VAT): €116.00 / $140.00

E-Book (PDF)
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-50828-6
Publication Date: 28 Feb 2022

Availability: Not Yet Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-50563-6
Publication Date: 17 Feb 2022

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Friday, April 22, 2022

Remember those Shapira scroll fragments?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Shapira Fragments. An artifact of 19th-century Jewish Christianity (Jonathan Klawans).

[UPDATE: Despite the date at the top of the essay, it is from March of 2021. I now see that I linked to it when it came out. Please pardon the error. Thanks to reader Matthew Hamilton for pointing it out.]

A little over a year ago, a couple of new books made a media splash, arguing that the Shapira scroll fragments were geniune after all. See here and here and then follow the links back from here.

Professor Klawans argues that the fragments are fake and they display Christian influence.

The discussion has died down in 2022, with no resolution in sight. I suggested a possible way forward here, but as far as I know, no one has followed it up.

I commented early in the revived debate:

If we ever find one of the Shapira fragments, we have a good chance of resolving the question. If not, I suspect Tony [Burke] is right. Both sides will find evidence that supports their confirmation bias and there will never be a consensus.
A year on, that still sounds right.

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Late-antique earring & fork recovered at Korazim

ARTIFACTS: Israel discovers 1,500-year-old earring, fork near Sea of Galilee (Xinua).
The artifacts, both made of bronze, were found in the Korazim National Park in northeastern Israel, about 4 km north of the Sea of Galilee, according to the NPA.
I wonder if this was a cooking fork or individual tableware. Either would be possible in this period.

Cross-file under Bling. For other finds of ancient earrings in Israel, see the links collected here. Those were all more upscale gold jewelry.

UPDATE (26 April; HT Joseph Lauer): This Times of Israel article has additional details about the discovery: Girl finds rare ancient fork at 1,500-year-old dig site near Sea of Galilee. Members of the public participate in work to uncover ancient Jewish village at Korazim, also uncover an elaborate earing [sic].

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The original Esther scroll? Nope.

YET ANOTHER CRUDE FORGERY: Discovery claim of biblical scroll in Iran is fake (Rob Lever, AFP Fact Check).
Videos shared on social media claim to show a recently discovered original scroll of the Book of Esther, a biblical text which recounts the deliverance of the Jewish people from a plot to exterminate them in the 5th century BC. But experts say the video shows a document with random Hebrew letters and no indication of a genuine antiquity.
I missed this story when it came out, but it's the sort of thing we've seen many times before. The video announcement is still up on YouTube at present:

My regular readers, you will recognize the pattern: a scroll or codex made of similar-looking crappy material with drawn images, gibberish Hebrew lettering, and Masoretic vocalization (or sometimes Syriac script), all in gold print. Most of the ones I have seen come from Turkey.

I have collected many examples here.

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

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Rescuing Egyptian Jewish manuscripts

HERITAGE CONSERVATION: Yiddish in Cairo: Egyptians Rescue Centuries of Jewish Life From Garbage Dumps (Ofer Aderet, Haaretz).
Over the last five years, [Prof. Yoram] Meital [of Ben-Gurion University’s Middle East Studies Department], a 63-year-old specialist on Egypt, has been taking part in a project aimed at conserving synagogues, cemeteries and other Jewish sites in Egypt. The project is being carried out by the tiny Jewish community that remains in Egypt, with American funding and the cooperation of Egyptian authorities. A consultant on the history of the Jewish community, Meital is documenting existing conditions through photography and texts, and creating a detailed database of remaining Jewish sites in Egypt.
I commend the Egyptian authorities for their support of Professor Meital's project. This is very good news indeed!

As the headline hints, this article has some information about the recently-discovered "new" Cairo Geniza:

Last month, the focus of the project was an old Jewish cemetery in Cairo. “Some 250 garbage trucks were used to clear the area. The place had become the neighborhood dump,” says Meital.

While the site was being cleared, Meital received a WhatsApp message while he was in Israel that made him sit up. “They sent me a photo of an opening to a genizah (repository) inside a burial chamber,” he says excitedly.

But before he had a chance of examining the material found there, officials from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities arrived and took away 165 sacks of documents. “We can’t say what’s there and how valuable it might be,” he says.

We now know a little more about what happened. But we still don't know where the documents are, how they are being cared for, and when scholars will be able to see them.

Reminder to the Egyptian authorities: The world is watching.

Please give us a full update on the manuscripts.

The article also mentions other discoveries by Professor Meital's team. This one is particularly exciting:

The most important finding came from the Karaite synagogue in Cairo, a manuscript of the Bible written 1,000 years ago on vellum “preserved in excellent condition,” he says. “It’s inconceivable. This book was located in a place where anyone could have picked it up .... You can’t imagine its monetary value.” The 616-page book, dated to 1028, had been previously documented by researchers but later disappeared.
For more on the restoration of the Ben Ezra Synagogue, the source of the famous Cairo Geniza, see here.

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On ancient Jewish stone vessels

MATERIAL CULTURE: Stone Dishes in Jewish Homes: A Custom That Began in the Second Temple. It was known that Jews used stone cups and dishes, but now Mount Zion archaeologist Shimon Gibson sheds light on their actual use from King Herod’s time - and until the Bar Kochba debacle (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
So, the use of stoneware may have begun in the Temple, and would remain in the context of Jerusalem for decades before permeating the land at large, city and country alike.
As Ms. Schuster notes, the underlying article came out recently in the peer-reviewed Journal for the Study of Judaism: Common and Uncommon Jewish Purity Concerns in City and Village in Early Roman Palestine and the Flourishing of the Stone Vessel Industry: A Summary and Discussion. The link leads to the astract. Full access is by personal or institutional subscription or individual payment.

For PaleoJudaica posts on ancient stone vessels, see here and here and links. And for posts on the inscribe Mount Zion stone cup, see here and links.

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Parks et al. (eds.), Jewish and Christian Women in the Ancient Mediterranean (Routledge)

Jewish and Christian Women in the Ancient Mediterranean

By Sara Parks, Shayna Sheinfeld, Meredith J. C. Warren

Copyright Year 2022


ISBN 9781138543782
Published December 31, 2021 by Routledge
370 Pages 68 B/W Illustrations

Book Description

This engaging and accessible textbook provides an introduction to the study of ancient Jewish and Christian women in their Hellenistic and Roman contexts.

This is the first textbook dedicated to introducing women’s religious roles in Judaism and Christianity in a way that is accessible to undergraduates from all disciplines. The textbook provides brief, contextualising overviews that then allow for deeper explorations of specific topics in women’s religion, including leadership, domestic ritual, women as readers and writers of scripture, and as innovators in their traditions. Using select examples from ancient sources, the textbook provides teachers and students with the raw tools to begin their own exploration of ancient religion. An introductory chapter provides an outline of common hermeneutics or "lenses" through which scholars approach the texts and artefacts of Judaism and Christianity in antiquity. The textbook also features a glossary of key terms, a list of further readings and discussion questions for each topic, and activities for classroom use. In short, the book is designed to be a complete, classroom-ready toolbox for teachers who may have never taught this subject as well as for those already familiar with it.

Jewish and Christian Women in the Ancient Mediterranean is intended for use in undergraduate classrooms, its target audience undergraduate students and their instructors, although Masters students may also find the book useful. In addition, the book is accessible and lively enough that religious communities’ study groups and interested laypersons could employ the book for their own education.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2022

The Great Revolt

HISTORY: The 2000-Year Legacy of the Jewish Wars (Mervyn Bendle, Quadrant Online). HT Rogue Classicism.

This is quite a good account of the Great Revolt (the first Jewish revolt against Rome) in 66 - c. 73 CE. It is based on the primary sources, especially the accounts by Flavius Josephus, and on the archaeological evidence.

That doesn't mean it tells us what actually happened. The casualty numbers, in particular, look inflated. And there are many unverifiable details. We have no way of knowing what really happened except in the most general terms. But this is a good summary of the primary accounts and the archaeology.

The essay also includes brief accounts of the Kitos War in 115-117 CE and the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 132-135 CE.

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

Ben Ezra Synagogue being restored

THIS IS GOOD NEWS: RESTORATION BEGINS ON OLD CAIRO'S BEN EZRA SYNAGOGUE. Famous for its geniza - a collection of ancient manuscripts -the current iteration of the Ben Ezra Synagogue dates back to 1892, as part of a renovation effort at the time. (Cairo Scene).

For PaleoJudaica posts on Cairo's Ben Ezra Synagogue, see here and links. And for many, many posts on the Cairo Geniza and its priceless hoard of manuscripts, start here and links, plus here, here, here, here, and here.

By the way, whatever happened with that new Cairo Geniza? We are still waiting for an update.

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

Hawass on the world of Cleopatra (2)

THE SERIES CONTINUES: The world of Cleopatra — II. Zahi Hawass continues his four-part series of articles on the world of the ancient Egyptian queen Cleopatra (Ahram Online).

This installment surveys the reigns of Ptolemy I to Ptolemy X and adds some comments on Ptolemaic architecture.

I noted the first essay in the series here. And follow the links from there for PaleoJudaica posts on the Ptolemaic empire, including its coins and its importance for biblical and ancient Jewish studies.

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

No beer on Passover in ancient Egypt?

TIME TO GET OUT THE PASSOVER PAPYRUS: ‘No beer on Passover, okay?’ —Jerusalem to Jewish soldiers in Egypt, 419 BCE (Dr. Henry Abramson, The Forward).
The document, known to scholars as The Passover Papyrus, is part of an amazing trove of papyri (texts written on a material made from papyrus reeds) and ostraca (texts written on broken pottery) from a remarkable Jewish colony in Elephantine, Egypt. Preserved by the dry climate of the region, the documents span about a century and provide an invaluable glimpse into relations between the center of Jewish life in the Land of Israel and the early Jewish diaspora.
For PaleoJudaica posts on the Passover Papyrus, see here and links. For the Elephantine Papyri more generally, see here and links, plus here and here.

Fun fact: the word "Passover does not actually appear in the "Passover Papyrus." It is reconstructed in a damaged spot. I have no trouble with the reconstruction, but Idan Dershowitz has offered a different reconstruction that takes Passover out of the papyrus and reads it as mandating a leap year (intercalated month) that year.

Cross-file under Aramaic Watch.

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

Review of Jackson-McCabe, Jewish Christianity

MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS: The Past and Future of Jewish Christianity. Sarit Kattan Gribetz on Matt Jackson-McCabe. Review of Matt Jackson-McCabe, Jewish Christianity: The Making of the Christianity-Judaism Divide. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020. pp. 328. $65.
“Imagine a scholar of New Testament and Early Christianity who went to sleep on the eve of World War II and woke up today. Describe to her the major developments in the field.”


Jackson-McCabe’s book highlights that, among the many subjects that scholars have explored, rethinking the fundamental categories by which scholars have organized the ancient world remains a central concern, especially in the last decade and a half. How we categorize, differentiate, and label our subjects of study sets the stage for how we imagine everything else about them, including their relationship to one another. Rearranging those categories and renaming them or dispensing with them altogether in favor of alternative ways of organizing our ancient sources provides us with the possibility of imagining the past in fundamentally different ways.

I noted the publication of the book here.

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A menorah graffito at an ancient library in Ephesus

MENORAH WATCH FOR PASSOVER: Menorah graffiti: Carving on Ephesus Celsus Library stairs an enigma. The menorah became employed as a Jewish symbol sometime in the 3rd century, so far three have been found in ancient Ephesus which had a flourishing Jewish community (Judith Sudilovsky, Jerusalem Post).
Julius Aquilas, the son of Roman senator and Roman Legion Commander Celsus Polemeanus, began construction of the Celsus Library in honor of his father, around 110 CE and it was completed in 135. Celsus is buried in a sarcophagus beneath the main entrance of the library.

Somewhere along the ancient history of the library, someone carved a graffiti image of a menorah into one of the steps of the library’s marble staircase. The history of the menorah can be nothing more than conjecture, noted Dr. Avner Ecker of the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University.

I don't think I knew about the Celsus Library. Sadly, all the scrolls are long since gone.

For other examples of menorah graffiti, see here and links.

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

Monday, April 18, 2022

Is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where Jesus was buried?

PODCAST ARTICLE: What does archaeology say about the location of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre? Ahead of Easter, we walk in the Jerusalem Old City church compound with top archaeologist Prof. Jodi Magness in this audio tour of the history and controversy of a unique holy spot (Amanda Borschel-Dan, Times of Israel).
As we tour the church and its surroundings, we see parts of the ruins of earlier stages of the church, including an arguably Christian find that predates the Constantine construction in around 330 CE, as well as remains of earlier structures. By the end of the tour, we see what Magness feels is the best evidence that supports the Christian tradition, although nothing is unambiguous.
For many PaleoJudaica posts on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Holy Sepulchre), start here (cf. here) and follow the links. Posts relevant to the article above are here and here.

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

Karatepe inscriptions recognized by UNESCO

PHOENICIAN WATCH: Bilingual inscriptions of Osmaniye in UNESCO Memory of World Register (Daily Sabah).
The 2,700-year-old inscriptions in the Karatepe Aslantaş Open Air Museum in the Kadirli district of southern Osmaniye province have been listed in UNESCO's Memory of the World Register.

The inscriptions, which feature both Anatolian hieroglyphs and Phoenician languages, in the Karatepe Aslantaş Open Air Museum, are on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List, and studies about them have yielded interesting results.


The Karatepe inscriptions were put up in a site in Cilicia now known as Karatepe by an official named Azitiwada, perhaps in the eighth century BCE. He boasts of his military and political achievements, including rebuilding a city on the site (which he modestly names after himself). He also makes arrangements for sacrifices to Baal etc. at the local temple. He calls down the blessings of Baal upon himself and he curses anyone who removes his name from the inscription. (See, e.g., John C. L. Gibson, Textbook of Syrian Semitic Inscriptions, Vol. 3: Phoenician Inscriptions [Oxford: Clarendon, 1982]), 41-64).

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

Creepy blood Aramaic?

ARAMAIC WATCH? Homeless Man Uses Own Blood to Scribble Magic Spell on Miami Beach Holocaust Memorial (David Israel, Jewish Press). I don't know if this is the weirdest story PaleoJudaica has ever noted, but it's surely in the top three.

For more on "Abracadabra" as an Aramaic magical spell, see here and links.

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

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Easter 2022

HAPPY EASTER to all those celebrating. My 2021 Easter post with links is here. See also here.

My 2016 Easter post contains links leading to biblical and related passages concerning Easter and to correct information on the origin of the word. And this post gives biblical references for the Passion narrative.

And yes, I do know about the "ancient" altar recently discovered in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Holy Sepulchre). It's an important discovery, but it is medieval, not ancient, so outside of PaleoJudaica's main range. But if you're interested, follow the link.

UPDATE (18 April): More on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Holy Sepulchre) here.

UPDATE (26 April): More on Easter here.

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More from McGrath on John the Baptist

JAMES MCGRATH is presenting papers on John the Baptist at AAR/SBL 2022.

Q as a Source of Knowledge about John the Baptist

AAR Conference Paper for 2022: “Late Antique Texts and Earlier History: The Case of John the Baptist and Mandaean Sources”

Professor McGrath has been working on John the Baptist for a long time. I have noted some relevant posts at his blog, Religion Prof, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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