Saturday, May 21, 2022

Review of Jewish Inscriptions in Greece exhibition

REVIEW: 'Integral': New show reveals ancient Jewish roots in Greece (AFP). The review highlights some details of the exhibition, including an inscription from the third century BCE which refers to a freed Judean slave.

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Bockmuehl, Jewish Law in Gentile Churches (T&T Clark)

Jewish Law in Gentile Churches
Halakhah and the Beginning of Christian Public Ethics

Markus Bockmuehl (Author)

Paperback $39.95 $35.95

Hardback $200.00 $180.00

Product details

Published Jan 27 2022
Format Paperback
Edition 1st
Extent 336
ISBN 9780567706799
Imprint T&T Clark
Dimensions 9 x 6 inches
Publisher Bloomsbury Publishing


Why did the Gentile church keep Old Testament commandments about sex and idolatry, but disregard many others, like those about food or ritual purity? If there were any binding norms, what made them so, and on what basis were they articulated?In this important study, Markus Bockmuehl approaches such questions by examining the halakhic (Jewish legal) rationale behind the ethics of Jesus, Paul and the early Christians. He offers fresh and often unexpected answers based on careful biblical and historical study. His arguments have far-reaching implications not only for the study of the New Testament, but more broadly for the relationship between Christianity and Judaism.

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Friday, May 20, 2022

What is a "liturgy?"

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: What is an Ancient Jewish Liturgy? (Jeremy Penner).
With these issues in mind, I would suggest that a liturgy can be defined as a publicly accepted ordering of rituals, which are, in turn, “the performance of more or less invariant sequences of formal acts and utterances”[8] for the public good, that may or may not include communication with the divine. I have not yet had the opportunity to fully explore the potential payoff of this definition, but I suspect it may shift the focus to thinking about ancient Jewish liturgy more as a way of life rather than prayerful acts. ...
Could be.

I am wary of efforts to define an etic term based on ancient usage of cognates, especially when we're dealing with terms in multiple languages. For etic usage, it is more important to define your terms clearly than to debate the meaning of the terms.

I encourage the author to explore the implications of this definition of liturgy. Others may define the term differently, with different implications.

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Archaeology tools

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Archaeology Tools from Trowels to Tech. Biblical Archaeology 101: Exploring the Archaeologist’s Toolkit (Nathan Steinmeyer).
With advances in technology, there are more archaeology tools than ever to help excavators dig into the past. Yet sometimes there is no substitute for a trusty trowel and bucket. Archaeology tools vary greatly by location, budget, and even research question. But, from surveying to recording, what are some of the most common tools used in biblical archaeology today?


For some thoughts (some mine, some from others) on the technological future of archaeology in coming decades, see here and here. Cross-file under Technology Watch.

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

Greek inscriptions exhibition at Jewish Museum of Greece

GREEK EPIGRAPHY: Jewish Museum of Greece: “Stone Paths – Stories Set in Stone: Jewish Inscriptions in Greece” exhibition opens (Greek City Times).
The Jewish Museum of Greece (JMG) inaugurated the “Stone Routes – Stories from Stone: Jewish Inscriptions in Greece” exhibition on Tuesday.

The exhibition presents, for the first time, archaeological findings that document the presence of Jews in Greece since the end of the 4th century [BCE].


The exhibition, supported by the culture ministry, the foreign ministry of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Hellenic-German Fund for the Future, is characterised by an innovative dual structure and originality.

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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Herod's alabaster bathtubs were locally made

MATERIAL CULTURE: King Herod the Great bathed in locally made calcite-alabaster bathtubs. Though most high-quality calcite-alabaster items here were thought to be made in Egypt, a new multidisciplinary Israeli study shows otherwise (Judith Sudilovsky, Jerusalem Post).
“These results attest to the fact that the calcite-alabaster industry in Judea in the second half of the first century BC was sufficiently developed and of high enough quality to serve the luxurious standards of Herod, one of the finest builders among the kings of that period,” the researchers concluded in their report.
The story is also covered by Amanda Borschel-Dan in the Times of Israel, with an interview with Ayala Amir: Alabaster for Herod the Great’s lavish bathtubs traced to quarry in Israel. Daughter-father scientific study rules out Egyptian quarries and shows ancient Holy Land industry was potentially much more developed than previously thought.

The latter also links to the open-access underlying article in Nature, which is here.

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Ancient underground Turkish city hid Christians and Jews?

SUBTERRANEAN ARCHAEOLOGY: Underground city unearthed in Turkey may have been refuge for early Christians. Archaeologists in southeastern Turkey have unearthed a vast underground city that was built almost 2,000 years ago (Tom Metcalfe, Live Science).
Now, 49 chambers have been unearthed in the colossal complex, as well as connecting passages, water wells, grain storage silos, the rooms of homes, and places of worship, including a Christian church and a large hall with a Star of David symbol on the wall, which appears to be a Jewish synagogue.

Artifacts found in the caverns — including Roman-era coins and oil lamps — indicate that the subterranean complex was built sometime in the second or third centuries A.D, Tarkan told Live Science.

For another underground complex in Turkey, this one in Kars Province and used by late-antique Armenian monks, see here.

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Vast haul of antiquities recovered in Israel

APPREHENDED: Huge Cache of Stolen Antiquities Found in Central Israel. Cuneiform tablets, jewels, and 1,800 coins, including one bearing the name of Shimon Bar Kochba, found in antiquities trader's house in Modiin (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
Ancient cuneiform tablets, a bronze figurine, jewelry, seals, and no less than 1,800 coins were seized from the home of an antiquities trader in Modi'in on Sunday by police working with the Israel Antiquities Authority theft prevention team.
Among the coins:
One rare item was a silver "shekel" coin from the time of the First Jewish-Roman War in 67 C.E., the IAA stated. It bears the legend "Holy Jerusalem" in Hebrew on one side with the image of a bunch of three pomegranates. The other side says "Shekel Israel Year 2" (the letter bet) and the image of a goblet.
Another Year 2 silver shekel was excavated in Jerusalem last year. I'm not a numismatist, but it looks to me to be of the same design as the newly recovered one.

In 2016 a Year 2 silver shekel sold for $5,280, while ten years ago a Year 1 silver shekel sold for $1.1 million. I don't know how much the newly recovered coin is worth. Much depends on its condition and how rare its features are.

Cross-file under Numismatics.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Lag B'Omer 2022

LAG B'OMER, the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer, begins tonight at sundown. Best wishes to all observing it.

My 2021 Lag B'Omer post is here with links. Subsequent posts are here, (sadly) here, and here. Please stay safe this year!

For the biblical and rabbinic background of the holiday, see here.

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

What was the Bread of the Presence?

PROF. JENNIE EBELING: Lechem Hapanim: Bread in the Presence of YHWH (
Each week, twelve fresh loaves of bread were placed before YHWH in the Tabernacle and Temple. What do we know about the practice and its significance?
For more on the Phoenician Ahiram sarcophagus inscription, see here (with photo).

For more on the Aramaic Kuttamuwu (Kuttamuwa) inscription, see my notices on its discovery in 2008 here and here.

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Green, A Guide to the Zohar (De Gruyter)

A Guide to the Zohar

Arthur Green

In the series The Zohar: Pritzker Edition

eBook (€82.95/£75.00/$95.00)
Published: April 21, 2022
ISBN: 9780804782913

About this book

The Zohar is the great medieval compendium of Jewish esoteric and mystical teaching, and the basis of the kabbalistic faith. It is, however, a notoriously difficult text, full of hidden codes, concealed meanings, obscure symbols, and ecstatic expression. This illuminating study, based upon the last several decades of modern Zohar scholarship, unravels the historical and intellectual origins of this rich text and provides an excellent introduction to its themes, complex symbolism, narrative structure, and language. A Guide to the Zohar is thus an invaluable companion to the Zohar itself, as well as a useful resource for scholars and students interested in mystical literature, particularly that of the west, from the Middle Ages to the present.

Cross-file under Zohar Watch. For many PaleoJudaica posts on the Zohar, see here and here and follow the links.

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

Supreme Court approves Jerusalem cable car plan

KARAITE-AND-CABLE-CAR-CONFLICT COURT DECISION: Israeli court rejects petitions against 'megalomaniacal' Jerusalem cable car plan. Court green lights Israeli government project to build controversial cable car connecting city's east and west (Mustafa Abu Sneineh, Middle East Eye).
Israel's Supreme Court has rejected several petitions against a controversial cable car project set to alter the historical skyline of the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem.

On Sunday, the court dismissed four petitions filed by Palestinian residents of the Silwan neighbourhood, store owners in the Old City, the Jewish Karaite community, the Israeli archaeological group Emek Shaveh, and Adam Teva V'Din, an environmental group.


This is the first I have heard about this story in a few years. I was following it back in 2019. See here and links.

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More on the Neo-Assyrian Aramean gods relief

PARIETAL PETROGLYPHS UPDATE: Unique Assyrian Relief With Aramaic Text Found Beneath Turkish House. First came the robbers, then the cops, then the archaeologists: This is the only Assyrian relief ever found underground, and with Aramaic names for the gods (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
Within that artificial cavern carved into the bedrock, artists began – but apparently did not finish – a wall relief almost 4 meters in length. Time-worn but unmistakably Assyrian in style, the panel shows a procession of eight major gods, the archaeologists say.

Moreover, the first three gods are accompanied by inscriptions. The gods are Syro-Anatolian but their names are Aramaic, in style and in writing. This is the only Neo-Assyrian relief found to date that has Aramaic text, the archaeologists say and as said is the only Neo-Assyrian relief ever to be discovered underground, though one was found in a cave at the source of the Tigris, the team philologist Dr. Selim Ferruh Adali qualifies.

This article has more details that I have seen in others, especially about the engraved divine images and the accompanying Aramaic inscriptions.

Background here.

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Monday, May 16, 2022

Ancient Samaritan priestly (?) residence opened on Mount Gerizim

SAMARITAN WATCH: The Samaritan connection to Mount Gerizim restoration, conservation. ARCHAEOLOGICAL AFFAIRS: Early Hellenistic period dwelling opened to visitors • Samaritan community has mixed feelings about park on its holy mountain (Judith Sudilovsky, Jerusalem Post). HT Rogue Classicism.
In 2012 the Israel Nature and Parks Authority began new works under the authority of the Civil Administration, and two weeks ago a newly restored, impressive Samaritan residential compound was open for visitors, enabling them to experience history by walking through the ancient rooms.

The compound, dated at around 200-300 BCE, is part of a large city from the Persian and Hellenistic periods which was built around a sacred precinct where once stood the Samaritan Temple, and where today stands the remains of a large Byzantine church built on top of the destroyed Temple, a heavy wall cutting right through the holy Samaritan site where Samaritan tradition holds the Tabernacle stood. During the Muslim period a military guard post was built over one of the church’s towers.

The date 1011 BCE for John Hyrcanus' destruction of Mount Gerizim is, of course, a typo. I think it is supposed to read 111 BCE.

Another golden bell, which everyone seems to think is priestly, was excavated in Jerusalem in 2011.

For PaleoJudaica posts on the Samaritan Temple etc. on Mount Gerizim, see here and links and here. And for a current museum exhibition on the Samaritans, see here.

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

When were rabbinic liturgical prayers fixed?

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: Were Early Rabbinic Prayers Scripted? (Ruth Langer).
... Are we correct to presume that early rabbinic liturgy had a textual tradition coherent with the models we know, including from their predecessors at Qumran? Did early rabbis have a system of memorized, orally transmitted yet fixed texts, or did their worship operate in a more free-form system? When and where did the verbal worship of the rabbinic elite spread to other social groups and geographic areas? These questions, with answers not yet fully resolved in my mind, have dominated my current investigations into early rabbinic liturgy.

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

How many people in ancient Israel?

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Peopling the Biblical World (Philip Jenkins).
The Biblical world at various eras is probably the most intensely studied society in human history. Just how many books, for instance, have been written about Palestine in the time of Jesus? Despite all that work, though, we still have major areas of ignorance about such a basic issue as population. If we look at a country today, that is such a critical theme. How many people are there to pay taxes, to serve in armies, to populate cities, and to feed those cities? Numbers are not everything, but nor are they nothing. So just how many people lived in Palestine – broadly defined – at any given time? And how many in Jerusalem itself?


Like so much in our ancient sources, ancient claims about the population statistics of Palestine and Jerusalem are on the tabloid level of credibility.

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

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Review of Price, Evolution of a Taboo

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Review: Evolution of a Taboo.
Evolution of a Taboo: Pigs and People in the Ancient Near East
By Max D. Price
(Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2020), xxii + 312 pp., 19 figures
(maps, graphs, plans, drawings, photos), $34.95 (hardcover)
Reviewed by Aren M. Maeir

As someone who has been studying the Philistine culture for some 25 years, I am greatly interested in the dietary patterns of the Iron Age Philistines and their neighbors—including who did and who didn’t eat pig. And this is one of the central issues addressed in the recent book by Max Price. An anthropologist and zoologist at MIT, Price explores the complex relations between pigs and humans in the Near East, focusing on ancient times but also providing perspective on the deep cultural ramifications until today.


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Ofer, The Masora on Scripture and Its Methods (Magnes Press - in Hebrew)

The Masora on Scripture and Its Methods
By: Yosef Ofer

Special price $33 $23

More details

Publisher: Magnes Press
Collaborators: De Gruyter
Year: 2022
Catalog number : 45-101139
ISBN: 978-965-7790-35-9
Pages: 357
Language: Hebrew
Weight: 700 gr.
Cover: Paperback


The starting point for any study of the Bible is the text of the Masora, as designed by the Masoretes. The ancient manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible contain thousands of Masora comments of two types: Masora Magna and Masora Prava. This book presents the way in which the Masoretic comments preserve the Masoretic Text of the Bible throughout generations and all over the world, providing comprehensive information in a short and efficient manner. The book describes the important manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, and the methods of the Masora in determining the biblical spelling and designing the forms of the parshiot and the biblical Songs. The effectiveness of Masoretic mechanisms and their degree of success in preserving the text is examined. A special explanation is offered for the phenomenon of qere and ketiv. The book discusses the place of the Masoretic text in the history of the Bible, the differences between the Babylonian Masora and that of Tiberias, the special status of the Aleppo Codex and the mystery surrounding it. Special attention is given to the comparison between the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex (B 19a). In addition, the book discusses the relationship between the Masora and other tangential domains: the grammar of the Hebrew language, the interpretation of the Bible, and the Halakha. The appendix to the book contains a description of books and computer software that are tools for researching the Masora. The book is based on the author's research and the research of the great scholars of the Masora in recent generations. It is a necessary tool for anyone interested in the text of the Bible and its crystallization.

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