Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Mysterious Nabataeans

NABATEAN (NABATAEAN) WATCH: The Mysterious Nabataeans and the Greek Influence (Matthew Quest, Greek Reporter).
At its peak, Nabataean influence stretched from modern Yemen to Damascus and from western Iraq into the Sinai Desert—at least according to some historians. It is difficult to say how large the area of Nabataean influence really was, as their caravans traveled widely. It is challenging to ascertain the borders of their dominion. Written records left by the Nabataeans are rare and difficult to find, but much has been found—including links to Greco-Roman history and culture.
This is impressively comprehensive for a popular article. It surveys the whole history of the Nabatean Kingdom, as far as we know it, with special attention to connections with the Greek world. It looks substantially accurate, but I have not fact checked it comprehensively.

The Greek Reporter has been doing some good work on ancient history.

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Eastern Mediterranean Gallery opens at Penn Museum

GALLERY EXHIBITION: New Eastern Mediterranean Gallery opens at the Penn Museum. The completely renovated gallery is the latest in the transformation and modernization of the building that dates to 1899 (Louisa Shepard, Penn Today).
hroughout the gallery are items that range in size and age and purpose, including gems, jewelry, coins, tools, ceramics, figurines of gods, as well as architectural elements such as tops of stone columns, sections of ancient doorways, and portions of a mosaic tile floor. The oldest object dates to 2100 BCE and the most recent to 1800 CE.

[Penn Museum Williams Director Christopher] Woods says that most of the artifacts in the new gallery were excavated by Penn archaeologists, many from the Beth Shean site in Israel in the 1920s and 1930s, which resulted in about 8,000 objects. The Museum has more than a million objects, with a very small percentage on display. “Whenever we can bring those objects out of the storerooms, that's always an exciting endeavor,” Woods says.

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Friday, November 18, 2022

Mystery amulet from Amastris

NORTHWEST SEMITIC (?) EPIGRAPHY: Unique ancient Egyptian amulet seal discovered during archeological excavations in northern Turkey (ArkeoNews).
During archaeological excavations in the ancient city of Amastris in the Amasra district of northern Turkey’s Bartın, an enchanted amulet stamp seal thought to belong to the ancient Egyptians was discovered.


“We see that there is a figure depicting the god Bes, whom we know from the Egyptian religion, depicted with incised lines at the base of the work. On the upper part of the work, we see that there are letter characters and talismanic words from the ancient Egyptian religion called demotic. The letter characters on the work probably represent this meaning of protection. As a kind of talismanic object, we can define it as an object that a person wears to be protected from evil and diseases or in whatever sense he wants to be protected. We can say that it is the only example of its kind found from the Roman layer in Anatolia during excavations,” Fatma Bağdatlı Çam said.

I don't know Demotic, so take my view with caution, but the inscription sure looks like Phoenician to me. The Egyptian god Bes was widely known outside of Egypt, so his iconographic presence is not an obstacle to a Phoenician origin. The city is Roman-era and this is the sort of object that could easily travel around.

The object is broken and the inscription is incomplete, but I see גתני. (.gtny) on the front face and .מ (m.) on the left side. (The dots are unreadable bits of broken letter. The letter after the mem could be an ’aleph.) There is not enough text to make any sense of it.

I have looked briefly at Demotic scripts and this looks more like Phoenician to me. It is a formal script. It looks early, certainly long before the Common Era. Again, such objects often became heirlooms and traveled around, so it isn't surprising to have it turn up in a Roman-era stratum.

That's my preliminary assessment, but I await the judgment of specialist epigraphers and am happy to be corrected. Christopher Rollston, call your office?

Cross-file under Phoenician Watch (?).

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The Willoughby Papyrus of John is now at UT

RESCUED FROM EBAY: Rare Papyrus Fragment of the Gospel of John Now at the Harry Ransom Center (UT News).
AUSTIN, Texas — A credit-card-size fragment is all that survives of a manuscript scroll of the Gospel of John that was written in Greek circa A.D. 250-350. Once listed on eBay, it is now in the collection of the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin. It is on view to the public this fall.

Geoffrey S. Smith, an associate professor and director of UT’s Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins in the Department of Religious Studies, first saw the eBay listing for the ancient fragment in 2015.


For background on the Willoughby Papyrus fragment of the Gospel of John, see here and here. I'm glad to hear that it is now in a museum, where it belongs. Now it needs formal publication.

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Thursday, November 17, 2022

Review of Hickey & Keenan, Edgar J. Goodspeed: America's first papyrologist

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Edgar J. Goodspeed: America’s first papyrologist.
Todd M. Hickey, James G. Keenan, Edgar J. Goodspeed: America's first papyrologist. California classical studies, 8. Berkeley: California Classical Studies, 2021. Pp. 178. ISBN 9781939926142 $34.95.

Review by
Mills McArthur, Southern Adventist University.

Edgar Johnson Goodspeed is perhaps best remembered as a pioneering Biblical scholar, a man whose “American translation” of the New Testament provoked lively controversy at the time of its 1923 release. Less widely known—but no less important when assessing his legacy—are Goodspeed’s forays into papyrology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. ...

For the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection at the University of Chicago, see here.

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CFP: New Directions in the Study of Rabbinic Texts (EABS)

H-JUDAIC: CFP: New Directions in the Study of Rabbinic Texts (EABS Siracusa/Sicily, July 2023, or hybrid).
Recent years have witnessed significant advances in the research of Rabbinic literature. From the preparation of new critical scientific editions and commentaries of the texts; to the incorporation of methodology from the realm of literary analysis, a greater degree of sophistication is evident in the interpretation of these texts. Significant developments include a closer commitment to exploring the contexts of the rabbinic sources, both within the rabbinic corpus and beyond, the hermeneutic structures of the various compositions; and to probing the interconnectedness between halakhic and aggadic elements in rabbinic sources. Of particular note is the close study of literary phenomena, narratology, topoi, and diverse rhetorical features. This session invites papers that offer innovative readings of rabbinic sources.
Follow the link for submission information. The deadline is 5 January 2023.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Rabbinics job at JTS

H-JUDAIC: FEATURED JOB: Open Rank Faculty Appointment (Rabbinic Literatures and Cultures), Jewish Theological Seminary.
The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) seeks a scholar and teacher for a tenure-track, open rank faculty appointment in the department of Rabbinic Literatures and Cultures. While the area of specialization within rabbinics is open, the successful candidate will display familiarity with Midrash, Talmud, Halakhah, and Ancient Jewish History. The successful candidate will have an active research agenda and a passion for teaching the varied student body at JTS, which includes undergraduate, graduate, education, rabbinical, and cantorial students. The successful candidate will be supportive of the academic, religious, and communal mission of JTS and willing to participate in the life of the institution. JTS welcomes applications from all qualified applicants without regard to race, color, disability, age, sex, national origin, marital status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other factors as prohibited by law. Scholars from underrepresented populations are especially encouraged to apply as JTS strives to increase the diversity of its faculty to achieve its ethical and religious goals.

This appointment, with an initial term of three years, begins July 1, 2023. Candidates must have their PhD in hand by May 2023.

Follow the link for additional details and application information. The deadline for first consideration is 5 December.

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When Did Judaism Emerge?

HISTORY OF RELIGION: When Did Judaism Emerge? Far Later Than Assumed, New Theory Suggests. Vast review finds no evidence that the Torah laws were commonly observed before the second century B.C.E., says Prof. Yonatan Adler. Not all agree (Ariel David, Haaretz).
A broad review finds no historical or archaeological evidence that the ancient Judeans, whether in the Holy Land or in the diaspora, observed or were even aware of the laws of the Torah until the second century B.C.E., says Yonatan Adler, a professor of archaeology at Ariel University and author of the new book “The Origins of Judaism,” published Tuesday by Yale University Press.
I noted a recent essay by Professor Adler on the same topic here. And this post is also relevant (but cf. here too).

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Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Watson & Curtis, Conversations on Canaanite and Biblical Themes (De Gruyter)

Conversations on Canaanite and Biblical Themes
Creation, Chaos and Monotheism

Edited by: Rebecca S. Watson and Adrian H. W. Curtis

About this book

Arguments over the relationship between Canaanite and Israelite religion often derive from fundamental differences in presupposition, methodology and definition, yet debate typically focuses in on details and encourages polarization between opposing views, inhibiting progress. This volume seeks to initiate a cultural change in scholarly practice by setting up dialogues between pairs of experts in the field who hold contrasting views.

Each pair discusses a clearly defined issue through the lens of a particular biblical passage, responding to each other’s arguments and offering their reflections on the process. Topics range from the apparent application of ‘chaos’ and ‘divine warrior’ symbolism to Yahweh in Habakkuk 3, the evidence for ‘monotheism’ in pre-Exilic Judah in 2 Kings 22–23, and the possible presence of ‘chaos’ or creatio ex nihilo in Genesis 1 and Psalm 74. This approach encourages the recognition of points of agreement as well as differences and exposes some of the underlying issues that inhibit consensus. In doing so, it consolidates much that has been achieved in the past, offers fresh ideas and perspective and, through intense debate, subjects new ideas to thorough critique and suggests avenues for further research.

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Monday, November 14, 2022

Was Jesus a carpenter?

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: Jesus the Carpenter, and the Search for Biblical Words.

Philip Jenkins addresses this question (the answer is probably yes) with a guided tour of the online resources you can access to explore this and related sorts of original-language questions. Many of those resources do require a knowledge of the Greek alphabet, but not much else.

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Review of Felle & Ward-Perkins (eds.), Cultic graffiti in the late antique Mediterranean and beyond

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Cultic graffiti in the late antique Mediterranean and beyond.
Antonio E. Felle, Bryan Ward-Perkins, Cultic graffiti in the late antique Mediterranean and beyond. Contextualizing the sacred, 11. Turnhout: Brepols, 2021. Pp. xx, 190. ISBN 9782503593111 €95,00.

Review by
Peter Keegan, Macquarie University.

... While attention is briefly paid to Jewish and Islamic devotional texts, the volume focuses in the main on Christian graffiti practices over the period 300-1000 CE across the Mediterranean world, Arabia, and Nubia. ...

Chapter 3, by Leah Di Segni, deals with Jewish devotional graffiti in the Holy Land.

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Sunday, November 13, 2022

Ecosystemic collapse at the Timna copper mines?

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: How the Timna Mines Went Bust. Iron Age copper mining caused large-scale environmental collapse (Nathan Steinmeyer).

Once again, the spectacular preservation of organic remains in the Timna Valley provides archaeologists with valuable information.

For much more on the Timna Valley excavation and the possible implications of its organic remains, see here and links.

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Ryan, From the Passion to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (T&T Clark)

From the Passion to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Memories of Jesus in Place, Pilgrimage, and Early Holy Sites Over the First Three Centuries

Jordan J. Ryan (Author)

$39.95 $35.95

$115.00 $103.50

Ebook (PDF)
$35.95 $28.76

Ebook (Epub & Mobi)
$35.95 $28.76

Product details

Published Sep 22 2022
Format Paperback
Edition 1st
Extent 296
ISBN 9780567697745
Imprint T&T Clark
Illustrations 25 bw illus
Dimensions 9 x 6 inches
Series The Reception of Jesus in the First Three Centuries
Publisher Bloomsbury Publishing


Since the early 4th century, Christian pilgrims and visitors to Judea and Galilee have worshipped at and been inspired by monumental churches erected at sites traditionally connected with the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. This book examines the history and archaeology of early Christian holy sites and traditions connected with specific places in order to understand them as interpretations of Jesus and to explore them as instantiations of memories of him.

Ryan's overarching aim is to construe these places as instantiations of what historian Pierre Nora has called “lieux de mémoires,” sites where memory crystallizes and, where possible, to track the course and development of the traditions underlying them from their genesis in the Gospel narratives to their eventual solidification in the form of pilgrimage sites. So doing will bring rarely considered evidence to the study of early Christian memory, which in turn helps to illuminate the person of Jesus himself in both history and reception.

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