Sunday, December 31, 2023

PaleoJudaica's top ten for 2023

ONE LAST 2023 TOP TEN LIST

I used to give an annual list of top PaleoJudaica stories in my anniversary posts, but in recent years I have been too busy in March to get around to it. So ...

Below is my own list of PaleoJudaica's top ten stories/posts for 2023. My criterion is stories that I found most interesting. They are in no particular order.

• The Mount Ebal tablet was in the news a lot, either as an important inscription or a comparatively insignificant fishing weight. I am not persuaded that there is any writing on it. Start at Latest on the Mount Ebal curse tablet / fishing weight and follow the links back.

• The "Vesuvius Challenge" competition (for deciphering a carbonized Herculaneum scroll) has produced an early winner. Start at Profile of the Vesuvius Challenge prizewinner and follow the links.

• The Egyptian Book of the Dead was also in the news, not least with reports of two new manuscripts discovered at Saqqara. Follow the links from The Egyptian Book of the Dead at the Getty Museum. An ancient mummification workshop was also excavated in Saqqara this year. See the links.

• The Codex Sassoon, roughly the oldest nearly complete Hebrew Bible, was auctioned by Sotheby's in May: Oldest Hebrew Bible up for auction. I suggested that the owner should donate it to a museum in Israel. The new owner, former US Ambassador to Romania Alfred H. Moses, dutifully did so: Codex Sassoon sold for $38.1M, is going to Israel. Well done. For all the 2023 posts on the Codex, start at Codex Sassoon is in Israel and work back through the links.

• A tomb was excavated in Israel which may have been of a courtesan around the time of Alexander the Great. The headlines kept getting better and more unlikely: The courtesan story has jumped the shark.

• A very important announcement: News about the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project. Cf here and here. Look for MOTP volume 2 by early in 2025. Watch here for updates in the meantime.

• My post about The Coronation of King Charles III is among the (all time) top five most-read PaleoJudaica posts. See also here.

• The initial authentication of the fake showpiece Darius ostracon was and remains a serious challenge to the credibility of lab tests for authenticating unprovenanced ancient artifacts. See Lessons from the fake Darius ostracon and follow the links.

• Yonatan Adler's book, The Origins of Judaism, with its late dating of those origins, received a good bit of attention this year. I have interacted with it and Adler's work in a few posts. See Adler on the origins of Judaism and Passover, Review of Adler, The Origins of Judaism and When did the Qumran sectarians observe the Day of Atonement?

• The report of the discovery of what appears to be an Old Bablyonian-era Amorite-Akkadian glossary made a splash early this year: An Amorite glossary from the time of Hammurapi? But the tablets are unprovenanced, which raises some concerns which I touched on in my post. See also here. As I noted in another 2023 post, we are seeing an increasing debate over how, if at all, scholars should deal with unprovenanced artifacts.

Bonus stories:

Late-antique underworld portal excavated near Jerusalem? and More on that "underworld portal" cave.

• Tony Burke's SBL paper gave us The latest on Christian Apocrypha studies.

Have a good and safe New Year's Eve 2023!

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

Roundup of top ten lists for 2023

ANNUAL ARCHAEOLOGY LISTS have abounded for 2023. Below are the ones that PaleoJudaica has noted.

• The best of the lot: Bible Places annual archaeology list

• BHD top ten for 2023

• (ASOR's) Ten big ANE discoveries in 2023

• Haaretz's top 2023 archaeology stories

• 2023: A big year for Egyptian archaeology (ahramonline)

• Sword discovery is National Geographic's best of the year

• 2023 BAS Publication Awards

Not strictly archaeology-related, but still important:

• AJR top ten for 2023

UPDATE: One more, also very important: PaleoJudaica's top ten for 2023.

UPDATE (3 January): I have noted two more archaeology lists:

Top 2023 Greek Archaeological Discoveries

Armstrong Institute's top ten 2023 archaeological discoveries

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Saturday, December 30, 2023

BHD top ten for 2023

ANNUAL ARCHAEOLOGY LIST WATCH: Top Ten Biblical Archaeology Stories of 2023. Bible History Daily’s Year in Review (Nathan Steinmeyer).
What were the top ten biblical archaeology stories of 2023? As the year winds down, we look back at some of the most popular news stories published on Bible History Daily in 2023. From uncovering Jerusalem’s ancient architecture to an early papyrus of Jesus’s sayings to the discovery of several ancient languages, this year provided some incredible archaeological news. The articles below are not listed or ranked in any particular order, though readers are welcome to share their top picks in the comments section below.

[...]

PaleoJudaica noted almost all of these stories when they came out.

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

AJR top ten for 2023

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: 2023 AJR Year in Review.
Ancient Jew Review is thankful for our community of contributors and readers invested in learning about Jews and their neighbors in the ancient world. For the year of 2023, these are our ten most-read pieces published this year ...
There is also a bonus list of the top three all-time AJR articles.

PaleoJudaica linked to most of these when they came out, sometimes with comments.

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Friday, December 29, 2023

Bible Places annual archaeology list

ANNUAL ARCHAEOLOGY LIST WATCH: Top 10 Discoveries of 2023 (Todd Bolen, Bible Places Blog).
The following is a “roundup of roundups.” Surveying more than 100 roundup posts written over the year, I have created a series of lists for what I consider to be most significant, beginning with the Top 10 Discoveries related to biblical archaeology. Our survey also recalls the most controversial stories of the year and other noteworthy reports from Jerusalem, Israel, and the broader biblical world. We have a section of top stories related to tourism, and for the first time, I am including a section of stories related to the antiquities trade and vandalism. As usual, we round up the best print and digital resources noted here over the year, as well as the deaths of influential figures. At the end, you can find links to other top 10 lists.
By far the best and most comprehensive annual archaeology list of 2023. PaleoJudaica has also covered most of these stories over the course of the year.

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

Ten big ANE discoveries in 2023

ANNUAL ARCHAEOLOGY LIST WATCH: Ten Exciting Discoveries in Near Eastern Archaeology in 2023 (Jessica Nitschke, The Ancient Near East Today).
In 2023 archaeologists and researchers continued to push the limits of the discipline and provide new insights into the ancient world. Here we include some of the highlights of those efforts: ten compelling discoveries and breakthroughs either made, announced, and/or published in 2023 (in no particular order).

[...]

It's a good list. PaleoJudaica has posted on the tenth-century BCE Jerusalem inscription that may be in Old South Arabian here and here; on the possibly oldest known codex (book) here and here; on the Roman-era swords found in the Judean Desert here and here; on the Berenike Buddha here and here; and on the unprovenanced Old Babylonian-era Amorite glossary here.

To make it twelve, I would add the discovery of new Book of the Dead manuscripts and of embalming workshops, both in Saqqara, Egypt. See here and links.

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

Nabateans from nomadism to Petra

NABATEAN (NABATAEAN) WATCH: Nabataean transition: From Nomadism to Sedentarism, rise of Petra as political, religious centre (Saeb Rawashdeh, Jordan Times).
The sedentarisation of the Nabataeans or at least of parts of the Nabataean society is understood as a longer process which started when Petra was chosen to become the seat of the tribe that is the residency of the royal family and the nobility of the tribe.
This article look to be connected to an earlier one by the same author noted here.

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Thursday, December 28, 2023

A fragmentary Aramaic Hanukkah poem

GENIZA FRAGMENT OF THE MONTH (DECEMBER 2023): An Aramaic Antiochus Chanukah poem: T-S A45.14 (Marc Michaels).

The poem is loosely based on the late-antique/early medieval Aramiac prose work Megillat Antiochus, a legendary account of the Maccabean Revolt.

From the odd ordering of the poem, the focus on Nikanor, the mention of banning the Torah instead of the new moon, and the teeth enabled circumcision, one wonders whether the poem was fully based on the megillah at all, or whether it had more of an independent life and some elements were selected or reworked and re-ordered as they had a more contemporary relevance, or just added for ‘shock value’.41

Either way, it is another celebration of the Chanukah miracle that at least two of the scribes in the Genizah, (one, our FOTM, written by a man of some considerable standing in the community), felt worthy to bring to our attention.

Belatedly for Hanukkah.

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Dates on ancient coins

NUMISMATICS: Dates on Ancient Coins (Mike Markowitz, Coin Week).
DATES[1] ARE SO universal on modern coins that it may come as a shock to learn that most ancient coins provide no indication of when they were minted. The “Common Era” (or “AD”, Anno Domini) dating system used in our world to designate years did not come into general use on European coins until the 16th century[2]. A wide variety of dating systems were used by different cultures in the ancient world to keep track of years, and in some cases, these appear on coins.

[...]

Examples follow, including coins of Cleopatra, Tyre, and Pontinus Pilate.

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Israeli troops find Byzantine-era oil lamp

CERAMICS: Troops mustering near Gaza border turn up tiny Byzantine-era lamp. Two members of the 282nd Artillery Regiment receive good citizenship award from the Israel Antiquities Authority for turning their discovery over to experts (GAVRIEL FISKE, Times of Israel).
Small ceramic lamps of this type, also called “sandal candles,” were filled with oil and used for indoor lighting in the region since “ancient times,” [IAA archaeologist Sarah] Tal said. This particular candle was identified as being from the Byzantine period and likely from the 5th or 6th century CE.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Eight facts about the Book(s) of Enoch

ENOCHIANA: 8 Facts about The Book of Enoch and its Content. The Book of Enoch has a remarkable impact on how individuals interpret the Bible, yet many people have never heard of it (Eben De Jager, The Collector).
The Book of Enoch makes for interesting reading. This pseudepigraphal work was widely read and accepted by the early church fathers, and once it went missing, the interpretation of key Biblical texts changed. Today, we distinguish between three works known as the Book of Enoch. So, what are these fascinating works all about?

[...]

There are a few little errors in this piece, but it is otherwise substantially accurate and informative.

There are many, many PaleoJudaica posts on the books of 1-3 Enoch. For some on 1 Enoch, see here and here and links. On 2 Enoch, see here and links. On 3 Enoch, see here and here and links.

A translation of the fourth "Book of Enoch" — the Book of Giants — is coming out in MOTP2 in 2025. This will be the first complete English translation of all surviving fragments. The volume will also reprint an English translation of the surviving Coptic fragments of 2 Enoch. Watch this space for updates.

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

The Mandeans

MANDEAN (MANDAEAN) WATCH: The mystery of the Mandaeans, the gnostic sect that worships John the Baptist (James McGrath, The Spectator).

The Religion Prof has a brief open-access introduction to the Mandeans in the Spectator. The Mandeans follow John the Baptist and aren't very keen on Jesus.

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

Blumhofer, The Gospel of John and the Future of Israel (CUP)

NEW BOOK FROM CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS:
The Gospel of John and the Future of Israel

Part of Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series

AUTHOR: Christopher M. Blumhofer, Duke University, North Carolina
DATE PUBLISHED: November 2023
AVAILABILITY: Available
FORMAT: Paperback
ISBN: 9781108737432

£ 22.99
Paperback

Description

The Gospel of John is renowned for the challenges it presents to interpreters: its historical complexity, theological and literary unity, and its consistently critical stance toward characters known as 'the Jews'. There is abundant scholarly literature on each of these challenges, and yet there are very few studies that consider the Gospel as a whole in light of these pressing issues. Mark Blumhofer offers a fresh approach to understanding the Fourth Gospel, one that draws together the insights of scholarship in all of these areas. He shows that a historically sensitive, ethically attuned, and theologically and literarily compelling reading of the Fourth Gospel lies before us in the synthesis of the approaches that have long been separated. Unlike studies that consider only a narrow portion of the Gospel, Blumhofer's unique approach draws on most of it and shows how common themes and interests run throughout the narrative of John.

  • Shows the reader what it would look like to read almost the whole of the Gospel of John in a fresh way
  • Combines literary, historical, and theological insights into a synthetic reading of the Gospel of John
  • Focuses on the text of the Gospel rather than long discussions of secondary literature, thus revealing common themes and interests throughout the text

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Monday, December 25, 2023

Christmas 2023

MERRY CHRISTMAS to all those celebrating!

For posts of Christmases past, see my 2022 Christmas post and links.

More recent Christmas-related posts are here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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

More on the (real? fake?) Jeroboam II bulla

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Bulla of Servant of Jeroboam Redeemed? Scholars say artifact is real after all (Nathan Steinmeyer).

I see that Northwest Semitic epigrapher Christopher Rollston shares my reservations about the authenticity of the object. Background here.

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

Tensions over the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo

CAIRO GENIZA WATCH: Historic synagogue creates tension between Egypt’s government and few remaining Jews. The antiquities ministry has exerted control over the 1,200-year-old house of prayer it paid to renovate. Now the tiny community fears it doesn’t respect their ownership of the site (DAVID I. KLEIN, Times of Israel).

For the restoration and reopening of the Ben Ezra synagogue (source of the Cairo Geniza), see here and links. Follow the links from there for many more posts on the Geniza.

For more on the recently-discovered other Cairo Geniza, see here and links.

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

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Staples, Paul and the Resurrection of Israel (CUP)

NEW BOOK FROM CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS:
Paul and the Resurrection of Israel
Jews, Former Gentiles, Israelites

AUTHOR: Jason A. Staples, North Carolina State University
DATE PUBLISHED: November 2023
AVAILABILITY: In stock
FORMAT: Hardback
ISBN: 9781009376761

£ 30.00
Hardback

Description

The gospel promoted by Paul has for many generations stirred passionate debate. That gospel proclaimed equal salvific access to Jews and gentiles alike. But on what basis? In making sense of such a remarkable step forward in religious history, Jason Staples reexamines texts that have proven thoroughly resistant to easy comprehension. He traces Paul's inclusive theology to a hidden strand of thinking in the earlier story of Israel. Postexilic southern Judah, he argues, did not simply appropriate the identity of the fallen northern kingdom of Israel. Instead, Judah maintained a notion of 'Israel' as referring both to the north and the ongoing reality of a broad, pan-Israelite sensibility to which the descendants of both ancient kingdoms belonged. Paul's concomitant belief was that northern Israel's exile meant assimilation among the nations – effectively a people's death – and that its restoration paradoxically required gentile inclusion to resurrect a greater 'Israel' from the dead.

  • What motivated St Paul's great leap forward, as regards his gospel of Gentile inclusion? This important book provides imaginative, persuasive and comprehensive answers to questions that have tantalised scholars for many years
  • Represents a brilliant new take on the rise of Christianity and its divergence from the Jewish religion as well as an exemplary articulation of the emerging field of 'Second Temple studies'
  • Mandatory reading for scholars of early Christianity and of Paul, as well as Second Temple Judaism: will engage students of the Hebrew Bible/OT as much as those of the NT
  • Jason Staples is one of the most exciting younger biblical scholars whose earlier CUP book received much attention and praise

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

Journal: Phoenix (vol. 76)

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Phoenix (vol. 76).
The volume 76 (2022) of the journal Phoenix is out. It contains several papers about numismatics especially within the economy of Achaemenid empire.
Also, notable for PaleoJudaica:
Haim Gitler, Oren Tal: Indigenous Coinages in Palestine: Towards an Understanding of the Persian-Hellenistic Transitional Monetary Phase
Cross-file under Numismatics.

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

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Who stole the baby in that Solomonic case?

DR. HILARY LIPKA: King Solomon Solves the Case of the Two Prostitutes. (TheTorah.com)
So why aren’t we told which mother actually stole the baby?
It's possible this story has an historical basis, but I tend to read it as a folktale. Be that as it may, my favored interpretation is that Solomon didn't care who the biological mother was. His "dangerous ruse" established which woman would be the better mother to the child. He gave him to her.

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SBL CFP: John the Baptist

RELIGION PROF: John The Baptist Call For Papers (James McGrath). It isn't too early to start thinking about SBL 2024!

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

Friday, December 22, 2023

Haaretz's top 2023 archaeology stories

ANNUAL ARCHAEOLOGY LIST WATCH: The Real King David's Jerusalem and Other Biblical Archaeology Discoveries in Israel 2023 (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).

PaleoJudaica has, of course, posted on most of these stories. For Jerusalem as the upturned archaeological layer cake, see here. For Jerusalem's "Millo," see here. For Hazael's invasion and baked bricks at Gath, see here. For those Temple Mount voids, see here. For extracting the DNA of First Temple-era Israelites, see here. For Yossi Garfinkel's case for a Davidic bureaucratic state, see here. For Jerusalem's mystery monumental moat, see here. And for the the Mount Ebal curse tablet/fishing weight, see here, here, and here.

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

The three Jewish revolts against Rome

HISTORY: The Roman-Jewish Wars: Jewish Resistance vs Roman Might. Temples were torched, cities sacked, and their people devastated. The Roman-Jewish Wars were the Jewish people’s desperate, but ultimately futile, fight to resist Roman expansion (Kieren Johns, The Collector).
During a span of seven decades in the 1st and 2nd centuries, the Jewish people challenged Roman power in the eastern Mediterranean. The Roman-Jewish wars were the backdrop for some of the most dramatic and tragic episodes from ancient history, from the sack of Jerusalem to the siege at Masada.

[...]

A quite detailed account of the three revolts, especially the first, on which we have the most information.

Today, by the way, is the "minor fast" of the Tenth of Tevet. It memorializes the beginning of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, as well the victims of the Holocaust. An easy and healthy fast to all those observing.

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CFP: Annual UCL-KCL Biblical Studies Workshop

H-JUDAIC: Annual UCL-KCL Biblical Studies Workshop.
We are pleased to announce the next UCL-KCL Workshop on Biblical Studies, which will be an online event. The keynote lecture will be given by Prof. Peter Machinist of Harvard University, on the theme of 'Assyria and the Hebrew Bible: A Reassessment'
Follow the link for information on submitting a paper proposal. The event takes place on 20 May 2024.

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

Thursday, December 21, 2023

On Matthew's Nativity story

'TIS THE SEASON: The Story behind the Nativity Scene (Prof.Meira Z. Kensky, TheTorah.com).
Nativity scenes are peaceful and idyllic. However, Matthew’s story of the magi bringing gifts to the newborn Jesus, set in the time of King Herod, foreshadows the gospel’s themes of political rivalry, violence, and the death of Jesus.
For many posts on the Star of Bethlehem and the Magi, start here and follow the links. For a recent PaleoJudaica post on the prologue to the Gospel of John, see here.

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

The Star of Bethlehem and ancient astronomy

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: What Was the Star of Bethlehem? How ancient astronomers observed the heavens (Nathan Steinmeyer).
Thus, we arrive at a twofold problem. First, ancient astronomers placed critical value on many astral phenomena that fall outside the purview of modern astronomy, including things as mundane as the weather. Second, interpretations of these events could vary greatly, even between individual astronomers who could choose which phenomena they focused on and which they did not.

Unfortunately, the Gospel of Matthew is of little help in pinning down what the Star of Bethlehem may have been. Despite the interpretive efforts of numerous scholars, Matthew’s description remains too vague, allowing for an incredible array of possible explanations before one even considers the many other phenomena that the ancients would have factored into their understanding of the sky.

I know I said that the Star of Bethlehem was already covered for this year. But this new BHD essay is worth noting for its focus on ancient astronomy.

For PaleoJudaica posts on the many explanations of what the Star of Bethlehem might have been, plus who Matthew's Magi may have been, see here and links. As I have said before, I think the Star story is based on a midrash on Numbers 24:7. I do not exclude the possibility that it was an actual celestial phenomenon, but I've not seen any proposals that have convinced me. If you're interested, follow the links and see what you think.

Cross-file under 'Tis the Season.

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On (not) apprehending the light

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: When The Darkness Did Not Grasp The Light (Philip Jenkins).
How, then, do we decide which meaning is intended in John’s Prologue? Overcome or understood?
I agree with Professor Jenkins that John probably intended the Greek word as a double entendre.

Cross-file under 'Tis the Season.

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

2023: A big year for Egyptian archaeology

YEAR-END RETROSPECTIVE: 2023 Yearender: A year of heritage (Nevine El-Aref, ahramonline).
Enhancing the tourist experience, digitising the services provided at archaeological sites and museums, exploring and conserving Egypt’s heritage, and opening new cultural attractions all took place this year, writes Nevine El-Aref
PaleoJudaica noted many of the discoveries and developments mentioned in the article. These include the new Egyptian Book of the Dead manuscripts; the reopening of Alexandria's Greco-Roman Museum; the new chamber in the Great Pyramid; the Saqqara embalming workshops; and the reopening of the Ben Ezra synagogue.

PaleoJudaica also posted on a couple of Egyptian discoveries not mentioned in the article: the Buddha statue at Berenike and the tombs excavated at Oxyrhynchus.

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

Schiffman on 10th century BCE Judean archaeology

PROF. LAWRENCE H. SCHIFFMAN: UNCOVERING THE KINGDOM OF DOVID. NEW ARCHAEOLOGY HAS REVEALED THE WIDE REACH AND LARGE BUILDINGS OF THE MONARCHIES OF SHAUL, DOVID AND SHLOMO HAMELECH.

Links to a pdf reprint of his article in Ami Magazine.

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The BAS 2024 Dig Guide

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Dig Into the Holy Land This Summer! BAS launches its 2024 Digs Guide (Nathan Steinmeyer).
Whether you’re interested in the worlds of Kings David and Solomon, want to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and the apostles, or work in an ancient Phoenician city, we’ve got an archaeological dig for you. For each dig, we provide an in-depth description, including location, historical and biblical significance, and the goals for the upcoming season. You can also learn all about the dig directors and professors who will lead your summer adventure.
Keep an eye on the travel advisories. Let's hope archaeological volunteering will be on in the summer.

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

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Beth Horon

TOURISM: Unique Sites of Israel: Biblical Beth Horon. (Nosson Shulman, The Jewish Press).

As the article notes, Judah the Maccabee's first major victory took place on the ascent to Beth Horon. See 1 Maccabees 3:13-26. Judah also killed Nicanor in battle in the vicinity of Beth Horon (1 Maccabees 7:39).

The article also mentions the defeat of the Roman army by Jewish rebels at Beth Horon in 66 CE, early in the Great Revolt (Josephus, Jewish War, 2.19.2-9).

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

McGrath on the Mandaean Convention In San Antonio

RELIGION PROF: Mandaean Convention In San Antonio (AAR/SBL Recap) (James McGrath).

With news about this convention, which evidently took place alongside the annual AAR/SBL conference, and also about Prof. McGrath's recent book, The A to Z of the New Testament.

Cross-file under Mandean (Mandaean) Watch.

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

UNESCO grants enhanced protection to Gaza's Saint Hilarion Monastery

ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR: Ancient Saint Hilarion Monastry in the Gaza Strip gains enhanced protection from Unesco. The archaelogical site, which dates back to the fourth century, has reportedly sustained damage during the ongoing Israel-Hamas war (Sarvy Geranpayeh, The Art Newspaper).
Due to the impossibility of assessing the damage on site, Unesco experts have been monitoring the situation remotely “using satellite data and information transmitted by third parties”, a Unesco spokesperson says. “Unesco is particularly concerned about the situation of the ruins of Saint Hilarion.”

At a meeting on 14 December, Unesco’s Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict decided to grant provisional enhanced protection to Saint Hilarion—the highest level of immunity against attacks established by the 1954 Hague Convention and its Second Protocol.

For more on the Saint Hilarion Monastery, see here and links. My comments there still apply, more than ever.

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

Monday, December 18, 2023

More on that bulla of Jeroboam II. Fake or real?

NORTHWEST SEMITIC EPIGRAPHY? 'Fake' Seal Impression of Biblical King Jeroboam Is Authentic, New Study Says. A nuclear scientist buys a suspect seal impression in the flea market. It's real, study finds: An official's smaller, cruder copy of the roaring lion seal of Jeroboam II, king of ancient Israel (Ariel David, Haaretz).
A team of researchers subjected the minuscule artifact, measuring just 23 by 19 millimeters (0.9 by 0.7 inches) to a battery of scientific tests, many of which had not yet even been developed when the bulla surfaced in Be'er Sheva. And although unprovenanced artifacts from the antiquities market are always suspect, the scientists found no evidence of forgery, the team reports in a recent paper published in Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University. (An earlier report on their research was published in the Hebrew journal Eretz Israel in 2021).
I noted the first announcement (before any of the journal articles) in 2020 here.

This time I'm going to inject some skepticism.

Do you remember the Darius ostracon? The exciting artfact found on the surface at Lachish that referred to King Darius I and even included a date? It wasn't long ago. It seemed too good to be true, but ...

But a few weeks later, after the IAA had put the potsherd through multiple scans and laboratory tests, including at the Dead Sea Scrolls Lab, Ganor called Levy and told him the potsherd was believed to be authentic.
Guess what? It was too good to be true. It was a modern showpiece for use in teaching that someone had carelessly dropped at the site after a demonstration to students.

If an object passes all the tests, that just tells us that it has not been demonstrated (yet) to be a fake. It does not prove it is genuine. The authors of the new study acknowledge this.

In the last link above, I commented:

What are all those scans and laboratory tests worth if they can't even identify a modern pedagogical showpiece that wasn't intended to fool anyone? This is a major hit to their credibility.
Let's not forget that now. The tests got fooled bigtime earlier this year.

Am I indulging in hyperskepticisim? Maybe. But keep reading.

In the copy and photographs of the original Megiddo seal there is small chip or hole that is visible directly under the chest of the lion, a tiny area that was probably damaged already in antiquity. The chip has no iconographic meaning – it is simply a defect, Münger tells Haaretz. And yet that same defect appears in the seal impression from Be'er Sheva, even though we know that this imprint must have been made from a smaller copy of the original artifact.

How could both seals carry the same defect? This could support the scenario that a modern forger created the bulla, copying the chip in the original seal because he was unaware that it was a defect, he says.

There are ways of getting around this problem, but it is a substantial piece of evidence that the bulla (seal impression) is a fake or forgery.

Where do we stand then?

I accept the bulla as provisionally genuine. It is not nothing to have passed all those tests, some of which, as article notes, had not been devised at the time it was bought. At the same time, fakes can sometimes pass the tests. And there is good evidence on other grounds that the object is a fake.

So, I have my doubts, but provisionally genuine. But no historical reconstructions should use it for evidence without flagging the problems with it. Any historical reconstruction using it is on shakey ground. That is true in general for the use of unprovenanced artifacts.

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

Nabatean varia

NABATEAN (NABATAEAN) WATCH: A couple of recent articles deal with Nabatean matters.

Rise of Nabataeans: A connection to trade, geographic reorganisation (Saeb Rawashdeh, Jordan Times).

AMMAN — The emergence of the Nabataeans is connected with the incense trade between southern parts of the Arabian Peninsula and the Mediterranean ports. First historical records on the Nabataeans appear in 4th century BC while before that period the Qedarites, the dominant Arab tribe of the Persian period, controlled the south from the Hijaz and all of the southern Palestine with a local centre at Lachish. The Qedarites established frankincense trade on their territory and they stepped on the historical stage when they became the main traders of frankincense from the Arabian Peninsula to the Mediterranean World.

[...]

Ancient scrolls reveal astonishing information about the life of a Nabatean woman, who lived in the first century AD in Petra (oguz kayra, Arkeonews).
The documents are now in the possession of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Professor Hannah Cotton-Paltiel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is an expert on them.

“Abi-adan is a Nabatean woman and the two documents are interesting because she’s selling the same orchard to one person and then to another,” she explained.

I'm surprised to find that I have never posted on Abi-adan. Two of the documents in the Babatha archive pertain to her. For more details, see this review by Elizabeth Shanks Alexander of Philip Esler's book Babatha's Orchard: Businesswomen Before Bar Kokhba (Jewish Review of Books).

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Démare-Lafont & Fleming (eds), Judicial Decisions in the Ancient Near East (SBL)

NEW BOOK FROM SBL PRESS:
Judicial Decisions in the Ancient Near East

Sophie Démare-Lafont, Daniel E. Fleming, editors

ISBN 9781628374858
Volume WAW 43
Status Available
Publication Date November 2023

Hardback $90.00
Paperback $50.00
eBook $50.00

This volume presents the first broadly inclusive collection, with accessible text and English translation, of documents related to judicial decisions in the ancient Near East, the oldest setting for such writing in the world. The texts in this volume belong to various genres, especially legal records and letters, and span almost two thousand years. With such varied material, the work depends on the expertise of specialists in each setting, from the Sumerian of early Ur to the late Akkadian of Babylonia under the Persians. The collection brings together not only 183 transliterated texts and new translations but also introductions and commentary that place these legal documents in their historical and social contexts. A glossary of legal terms, a concordance of texts included, and an index of legal terms makes this an invaluable tool for students and scholars across disciplines. The contributors are Dominique Charpin, Sophie Démare-Lafont, Daniel E. Fleming, Francis Joannès, Bertrand Lafont, Brigitte Lion, Ignacio Márquez Rowe, Cécile Michel, and Pierre Villard.

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Sunday, December 17, 2023

Gertz, Studien zum Buch Genesis (Mohr Siebeck)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Jan Christian Gertz. Studien zum Buch Genesis. [Studies on the Book of Genesis.] 2023. XII, 397 pages. Forschungen zum Alten Testament 175. 154,00 € including VAT. cloth ISBN 978-3-16-162380-6.
Published in German.
This volume includes studies by Jan Christian Gertz in which he addresses the history of the origin and interpretation of the Book of Genesis, the significance of the biblical Primeval History in the context of the literary and intellectual history of the ancient Near East, and the question of the relationship of Genesis to the subsequent Exodus narrative.

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Oxford Summer School in Greek Palaeography

THE ETC BLOG: Oxford Summer School in Greek Palaeography (Peter M. Head).
The ninth Lincoln College International Summer School in Greek Palaeography will be held on 29 July - 3 August 2024. ...

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Saturday, December 16, 2023

Mallephana Rabba (Cook Festscrift, Gorgias)

NEW BOOK FROM GORGIAS PRESS:
MALLEPHANA RABBA
Aramaic Studies in Honor of Edward M. Cook

Edited by Stephen M. Coleman, Andrew D. Gross & Andrew W. Litke

Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC

SKU (ISBN): 978-1-4632-4583-2

Publication Status: Forthcoming
Series: Perspectives on Linguistics and Ancient Languages 15
Publication Date: Dec 20,2023
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 445
Languages: Englishv ISBN: 978-1-4632-4583-2

Price: $95.00
Your price: $57.00

This volume of essays honors Edward M. Cook, Ordinary Professor of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures at The Catholic University of America. Cook is a leading figure in the vibrant and far-reaching field of Aramaic studies, and the essays reflect his range of interests, with lexical, linguistic, and literary analyses of dialects from the earliest inscriptions to the modern day. The essays are organized in four categories. The first focuses on the earliest attested Aramaic dialects; the second on Biblical Aramaic and texts from the Judean desert; the third on Aramaic translations of Scripture; and the fourth on poetic and religious texts from Late Antiquity. The volume concludes with a poem composed in Neo-Aramaic.

Contributions from Andrew W. Litke, William Fullilove, Andrew D. Gross, Daniel E. Carver, Tarsee Li, Stephen M. Coleman, Martin G. Abegg, Jr., Aaron Koller, Peter Y. Lee, Michael Owen Wise, Christian M. M. Brady, Stephen A. Kaufman, Jerome A. Lund, Alexandra Lupu, Moshe J. Bernstein, Laura S. Lieber, Matthew Morgenstern, and Shawqi N. Talia.

Congratulations to Professor Cook!

The book may be "forthcoming" for a few more days, but I know from Facebook that Ed did recieve a copy at the recent SBL conference in San Antonio.

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Boys find a coin of Herod Agrippa I

NUMISMATICS: Israeli boys find 2,000-year-old coin from time of King Agrippa (huaxia, Xinhua).
It was minted in Jerusalem during the time of Herod Agrippa, who was the Roman-Jewish king of Judea between 41 and 44 AD.

On the obverse side of the coin a royal canopy appears next to the inscription "Agrippa the King" in Greek, while on the reverse side, three grain stalks appear.

This would be Herod Agrippa I, a lurid account of whose death is found in Acts 12. There was a Herod Agrippa II as well, who also appears in the Book of Acts. For many PaleoJudaica posts on both of them, start here and follow the links. Another coin of Herod Agrippa I was found in 2019.

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Friday, December 15, 2023

Review of Taxation, economy, and revolt in ancient Rome, Galilee, and Egypt

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Taxation, economy, and revolt in ancient Rome, Galilee, and Egypt.
Thomas R. Blanton IV, Agnes Choi, Jinyu Liu, Taxation, economy, and revolt in ancient Rome, Galilee, and Egypt. Routledge monographs in classical studies. Abingdon; New York: Routledge, 2022. Pp. xiv, 186. ISBN 9780367472207

Review by
Irene Soto Marín, Harvard University. irenesotomarin@fas.harvard.edu

... This book is clearly written for readers interested in Judaea and biblical studies and could serve as an introduction to basic economic questions framed by and for biblical scholars. I do not think, however, that it will be a book of particular significance to scholars of the Roman Empire who require a developed theoretical approach to economic analyses and detailed arguments based on the available data. ...

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The year Jesus was born (?) was quite a year

'TIS THE SEASON: The Year Jesus Was Born (Philip Jenkins, The Anxious Bench).
Looking at these events, we understand just what the Romans were so afraid of in Jesus’s lifetime, and why they were especially nervous about rogue Galileans with religious pretensions – especially any with the slightest aspirations to kingship. And moreover, why they would be so justifiably paranoid around great feasts, such as Passover.

The crisis of 4 BC offered a prequel, a draft script, of so many of the horrors of the coming century. And that was the world into which Jesus was born.

This essay is a re-posting which I noted some years ago. I had forgotten about it, which means it's a good time to link to it again.

In my earlier posting, I express some skepticism about our being able to pinpoint the year of Jesus's birth. Check out the link there for discussion.

Whether or not Jesus was born in 4 BCE, this essay gives a good sense of the social and political world into which he was born.

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Latest on raising the Mazzarón II

PHOENICIAN WATCH: Archaeologists Plan Rescue of Ancient Phoenician Shipwreck in Spain (Nisha Zahid, Greek Reporter).
A team of nine technicians from the University of Valencia dedicated 560 hours to meticulously examining the shipwreck. Equipped with scuba gear, they carried out their investigations over a period of more than two weeks in June.

Their objective was to document all the cracks and openings in the ship’s structure, which currently rests at 60 meters (equivalent to 66 yards) near Mazarron’s Playa de la Isla.

Later this year, a team of experts will provide recommendations on how to safeguard and recover the shipwreck, potentially as early as next summer.

For more on this Phoenician shipwreck from roughly the sixth century BCE, see here and links. At that time this investigation was still in progress.

There is also another Phoenicial shipwreck of comparable age (the "Mazzarón I"), which seems to be undergoing restoration in the nearby town of Cartagena. See the link above for more.

Note the variable spellings Mazarrón (Mazarron) and Mazzarón (Mazzaron).

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Thursday, December 14, 2023

Sword discovery is National Geographic's best of the year

ANNUAL ARCHAEOLOGY LIST WATCH: Swords found in Judean Desert caves ranked as most exciting archaeology story of 2023. National Geographic gives top slot to discovery of 1,900-year-old, remarkably preserved Roman blades, likely cached by Bar Kochba rebels in one of 800 caves near Dead Sea (GAVRIEL FISKE, Times of Israel).

I noted this story a few months ago here. For the submerged Nabatean (Nabataean) temple near Naples, see here and here. For the Saqqara mummification workshop, see here. I have noted additional 2023 discoveries at Saqqarah here, here and here, with links.

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Jerusalem's mystery monumental moat

ANCIENT MONUMENTAL ENGINEERING: Archaeologists Bewildered by Monumental Moat That Split Biblical Jerusalem in Two. Israeli archaeologists have found a huge ditch carved into the rock that may have split ancient Jerusalem in two 3,000 years ago, with the elites on one side and the rest on the other. Why is another question (Ariel David, Haaretz).
On the eastern edge of the Givati dig, the archaeologists recently removed multiple layers of Byzantine, Roman and Hellenistic remains to reach bedrock, but they found that around nine meters lower than expected. They soon realized they were standing in a huge ditch marked by two clearly rock-cut cliffs to the north and south, report Prof. Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University, Dr. Yiftah Shalev of the Israel Antiquities Authority and colleagues.

The ditch, at the bottom of which the strange channel installations were found, is massive. It measures around 30 meters wide: that's more or less enough to fit a 10-storey building lying on its side.

As I've said before, the Givati excavation is the dig that keeps on giving.

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Fixed-term Rabbinics job at JTS

H-JUDAIC: FEATURED JOB: Visiting Assistant Professor, Jewish Theological Seminary.
Call for Applicants: the Golda Och Visiting Assistant Professor in the Field of Rabbinic Literatures and Cultures

The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) seeks a scholar and teacher for a one year visiting faculty appointment in the area of Rabbinic Literatures and Cultures.

[...]

Follow the link for further particulars. Application materials should be submitted by 22 January 2024.

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Theologies of Hasmonean Martyrdom

HANUKKAH RELATED: Hasmonean Martyrdom: Between Christian and Jewish Tradition (Dr. Malka Z. Simkovich, TheTorah.com).
Eastern Christianity includes prayer and a festival honoring the martyrdom of a woman and her seven sons who, in the time of Antiochus IV, refused to eat pork. The Talmud reimagines their story, depicting the woman and her sons as refusing to worship an idol in Roman times. This change reflects the rabbis’ tendency to downplay martyrdom in favor of a piety model centered on “dying” through exhaustive Torah study.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Waaler, The Use of the Old Testament in Matthew 1–4 (Mohr Siebeck)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Erik Waaler. The Use of the Old Testament in Matthew 1–4. 2023. XV, 326 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 595. sewn paper ISBN 978-3-16-162225-0.
Published in English.
In this book, Erik Waaler discusses how Matthew uses the Old Testament in Matthew 1–4 to describe Jesus as the Christ. He debates the intricate system of changes that occur when a text is moved from one literary context to another and criticizes the current terminology of quotation, allusion, and echo for being too simplistic. Issues like worldview, metalepsis, different sociological, historic and linguistic contexts and development all have to be taken into consideration, he argues, as do the influence of both traditional interpretations known to Matthew and his primary audience as well as the intentional and unintentional changes this interaction causes. These different methodological approaches are then applied to the study of recontextualization of the Old Testament in Matthew 1–4.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Miroshnikov (ed.), Parabiblica Coptica (Mohr Siebeck)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK:Parabiblica Coptica. Edited by Ivan Miroshnikov. 2023. IX, 241 pages. Parabiblica 3. 119,00 €including VAT. cloth ISBN 978-3-16-162086-7.
Published in English.
The present volume focuses on the Coptic parabiblical texts – those texts that do not belong to the Bible but fall in its orbit – which include not only the Apocrypha but also the works of the Apostolic Fathers. The contributions deal with a wide range of topics and literary genres, including apocryphal acts and the so-called apostolic memoirs. The volume is divided into two sections: editiones, which contains editions of several important texts in Sahidic Coptic, and studia, which comprises five articles on Coptic parabiblical literature. The literary works discussed in the volume are contextualized in the scope of Coptic literature, regardless of whether they were originally composed in Coptic or translated into Coptic from Greek. Some of the contributions also deal with the reception of Coptic literature in Arabic and Old Nubian literary traditions.
Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch (etc.).

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Muraoka, Wisdom of Ben Sira (Peeters, open access)

NEW BOOK FROM PEETERS:
Wisdom of Ben Sira

PRICE: 135 euro
YEAR: 2023
ISBN: 9789042949140
E-ISBN: 9789042949157
PAGES: XIV-807 p.

SERIES:
Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis, 302

AUTHOR:
Muraoka T.

SUMMARY:
A philological commentary on the book of Ben Sira accompanied by a full translation of the Greek text in the Septuagint. Similar in content to the book of Proverbs, and though not canonical, but read and studied by the ancient Jewish community, as shown by a considerable quantity of fragments of its Hebrew original discovered in a storage room of a synagogue in Cairo and among the documents discovered in Qumran caves and the Judaean Desert. All these data as well as two ancient Syriac translations have been fully taken into account.

This book is published open access. It can be downloaded here.

For you, special deal!

HT the AWOL Blog.

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Monday, December 11, 2023

Übersetzung des Talmud Yerushalmi. I. Seder Zeraim. Traktat 5: Shevi'it (Mohr Siebeck)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Übersetzung des Talmud Yerushalmi. I. Seder Zeraim. Traktat 5: Shevi'it. Siebentjahr. Herausgegeben von Hans-Jürgen Becker, Frowald G. Hüttenmeister und Peter Schäfer. Übers. v. Andreas Lehnardt. [Translation of the Talmud Yerushalmi. I. Seder Zeraʿim. Tractate 5: Sheviʿit – Seventh Year.] 2023. LVI, 277 pages. 139,00 € including VAT. cloth ISBN 978-3-16-162611-1.
Published in German. Andreas Lehnardt presents the first German translation of the Tractate Sheviʿit (Sabbath Year) with a short commentary. Massekhet Sheviʿit is the fifth tractate of the first order, Zeraʿim (Seeds). It deals with Biblical Laws of Seventh Year according to Exodus 23:10–11, Leviticus 25:1–7 and Deuteronomy 15:1–3. The tractate provides a commentary to the Mishnah tractate of the same name.
This series of German translations of the tractates of Talmud Yerushalmi (the Jerusalem Talmud or Palestinian Talmud) has been ongoing since the 1980s. The many volumes published so far are listed here. The series has been quiet for some time, but I see another volume is scheduled for release in 2024. It is good to see the project active again.

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Michael Knibb, 1938-2023

ZWINGLIUS REDIVIVUS: Sad News: The Passing of Michael Knibb (Jim West).

Michael Knibb was a towering figure in the areas of ancient Judaism and Ethiopic biblical literature. He was also a very nice man. I am very sad to hear that he is gone.

Jim links to Professor Knibb's KCL page. His Wikipedia page is here.

Requiescat in pace.

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Adams & Domoney-Lyttle, The Philo of Alexandria Scripture Index (SBL)

NEW BOOK FROM SBL PRESS:
The Philo of Alexandria Scripture Index

Sean A. Adams, Zanne Domoney-Lyttle

ISBN 9781628374797
Volume SPhiloM 9
Status Available
Publication Date September 2023

Hardback $50.00
Paperback $30.00
eBook $30.00

The Philo of Alexandria Scripture Index identifies and lists every instance in which Philo of Alexandria cites or alludes to passages from Jewish Scripture. With 7,831 references, this book is the most comprehensive study of its kind to date. Unlike other volumes with a single index of Philo’s citations and allusions organized by biblical book, this volume includes a second index that follows Philo’s treatise order. This second format allows students and scholars easily to examine Philo’s engagement with Scripture in individual treatises and to interrogate how Philo collected and grouped intertexts. In addition to the indices, Sean A. Adams and Zanne Domoney-Lyttle provide an introduction to their methodology and their selection of texts, including Philo’s fragmentary works and those that survive only in the Armenian tradition.

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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Review of Kuin, Lucian's laughing gods

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Lucian’s laughing gods: religion, philosophy, and popular culture in the Roman East.
Inger N.I. Kuin, Lucian's laughing gods: religion, philosophy, and popular culture in the Roman East. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2023. Pp. 304. ISBN 9780472220977

Review by
Anna Peterson, Pennsylvania State University. aip12@psu.edu

... In her captivating book, Inger Kuin offers an engaging analysis of Lucian’s depiction of gods that should prove indispensable for future studies on this under-discussed aspect of his corpus. In so doing, she seeks to move beyond previous attempts, which have focused primarily on discussing Lucian’s use of humor[1] or analyzing individual texts.[2] Instead, Kuin incorporates methodologies from religious studies and adopts a synoptic view of the corpus. The result is a study that scholars of both imperial Greek literature and ancient religion will find useful for understanding Lucian’s comedic depictions of the gods and religious practices. ...

I have noted other books about the second century CE satirist Lucian of Samosata here, here, and here.

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Achenbach, Tora in der Perserzeit (Mohr Siebeck)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Reinhard Achenbach. Tora in der Perserzeit. Gesammelte Studien zu Theologie und Rechtsgeschichte Judas. [The Torah in the Persian Period. Collected Studies on the Theology and Legal History of Judah.] 2023. X, 488 pages. Forschungen zum Alten Testament 173. 164,00 € including VAT. cloth ISBN 978-3-16-154413-2.
Published in German.
Reinhard Achenbach offers a collection of studies on the redactional composition of the Pentateuch, the history of institutions, on concepts of international law, and the rights of foreigners in the scribal tradition of Judah during the Second Temple Period in the Persian Empire (539–333 B.C.E.). He examines the changes in theological ideas, priestly institutions, sacral rules, and purity law in the tension between the pursuit for religious autonomy in the community and Jewish monotheism's claim of universal significance.

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Saturday, December 09, 2023

Review of Vanden Eykel, The Magi

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Review: The Magi in History and Tradition.
The Magi Who They Were, How They’ve Been Remembered, and Why They Still Fascinate
By Eric Vanden Eykel
(Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2022), 218 pp.; $28 (hardcover), $25.99 (eBook)
Reviewed by Christopher A. Frilingos
For many PaleoJudaica posts on Matthew's Magi, see here and links, plus here and here. That first link also covers the Star of Bethlehem again for this year.

Cross-file under 'Tis the Season.

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Lightstone, What Were the Early Rabbis? (Cascade)

NEW BOOK FROM WIPF AND STOCK:
What Were the Early Rabbis?
An Introduction from a Sociocultural Perspective

Westar Studies

by Jack N. Lightstone
Imprint: Cascade Books

340 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.68 in

Paperback
9781666762471
Published: June 2023
$39.00 / £31.00 / AU$59.00

Hardcover
9781666762488
Published: June 2023
$59.00 / £47.00 / AU$89.00

eBook
9781666762495
Published: June 2023
$39.00 / £33.99 / AU$56.99

DESCRIPTION

Over the first eight centuries CE, the religious cultures of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and many European lands transformed. Worship of "the gods" largely gave way to the worship of YHWH, the God of Israel, under Christianity and Islam, both developments of contemporary Judaism, after Rome destroyed Judaism's central shrine, the Jerusalem Temple, in 70 CE. But concomitant changes occurred within contemporary Judaism. The events of 70 wiped away well-established Judaic institutions in the Land of Israel, and over time the authority of a cadre of new "masters" of Judaic law, life, and practice, the "rabbis," took hold. What was the core, professional-like profile of members of this emerging cadre in the late second and early third centuries, when this group first attained a level of stable institutionalization (even if not yet well-established authority)? What views did they promote about the authoritative basis of their profile? What in their surrounding and antecedent sociocultural contexts lent prima facie legitimacy and currency to that profile? Geared to a nonspecialist readership, What Were the Early Rabbis? addresses these questions and consequently sheds light on eventual shifts in power that came to underpin Judaic communal life, while Christianity and Islam "Judaized" non-Jews under their expansive hegemonies.

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Friday, December 08, 2023

The Hasmonean Heritage Museum in Modi’in

HANUKKAH RELATED: Hasmonean Heritage Museum (Hava Preil, Jewish Link).
As the candles glisten, let’s go back to the land of the Chanukah story. According to the book of Maccabees I, the Hasmonean Revolt against the Seleucid Greeks began in the city of Modi’in in the year 167 BCE. When construction of the modern city of Modi’in began in the 1990s, archeological excavations began to reveal Modi’in of the past. These excavations have yielded finds from all eras of history until today. Many of these finds are on display at the Hasmonean Heritage Museum.

[...]

I noted the opening of the Museum a couple of years ago, but all the links in that post have rotted. So here it is again.

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Circumcision through the ages

HANUKKAH RELATED: Persecuting Circumcision (Dr. Alexandria Frisch, TheTorah.com).
Samson, Saul, Jonathan, and David insult Philistines for being uncircumcised. Antiochus IV prohibited circumcision, while, Mattathias, and later John Hyrcanus, forced others to circumcise. In Roman times too, Emperor Hadrian forbade circumcision and Bar Kochba circumcised Jews by force. Was circumcision a reason for the revolt?

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Wise, Language and Literacy in Roman Judaea (Yale)

BOOK FROM YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS:
Language and Literacy in Roman Judaea
A Study of the Bar Kokhba Documents

by Michael Owen Wise

Series: The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library

544 Pages, 6.12 x 9.25 x 1.37 in, 18 b-w illus.

Hardcover
$85.00

9780300204537
Published: Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Description

This comprehensive exploration of language and literacy in the multi-lingual environment of Roman Palestine (c. 63 B.C.E. to 136 C.E.) is based on Michael Wise’s extensive study of 145 Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Nabataean contracts and letters preserved among the Bar Kokhba texts, a valuable cache of ancient Middle Eastern artifacts. His investigation of Judean documentary and epistolary culture derives for the first time numerical data concerning literacy rates, language choices, and writing fluency during the two-century span between Pompey’s conquest and Hadrian’s rule. He explores questions of who could read in these ancient times of Jesus and Hillel, what they read, and how language worked in this complex multi-tongued milieu. Included also is an analysis of the ways these documents were written and the interplay among authors, secretaries, and scribes. Additional analysis provides readers with a detailed picture of the people, families, and lives behind the texts.

This is another one that I missed when it came out, quite some time ago. But it seems worth noting now.

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Thursday, December 07, 2023

Hanukkah 2023

HAPPY HANUKKAH (CHANUKKAH, CHANUKAH, HANNUKAH) to all those celebrating! The eight-day festival begins tonight at sundown.

Last year's Hanukkah post is here. It links to earlier Hanukkah/Hasmonean-era-related posts. Some more recent Hanukkah-related posts are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

UPDATE: And more 2023 Hanukkah-related posts are here, here, here, and here.

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The Hasmoneans, the Oniads, and the high priesthood

HANUKKAH RELATED: The Hasmoneans Usurped the High Priesthood from the Oniads (Prof. Daniel R. Schwartz, TheTorah.com).
The family of Onias long controlled the high priesthood before the persecution of Antiochus IV and the Hasmoneans’ (“Maccabees’”) rebellion. When the dust settled, the Hasmoneans found themselves in charge of the priesthood and the Oniads had relocated to Egypt. 1 Maccabees, a pro-Hasmonean work, defends the legitimacy of the Hasmonean accession to the high priesthood, and the fact that it went to the family of Judah Maccabee’s brother, Simon.
For PaleoJudaica posts on the Oniad Temple at Leontopolis, in Egypt, see here and links. For more on the Maccabean Revolt, see the immediately preceding post—here—and links.

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Two revolts against Hellenistic Kings

HANUKKAH RELATED: Two Major Native Rebellions Against Hellenistic Kings. Here are two stories of Greco-Macedonian rulers of the Hellenistic period coming to blows with the native population of their empires (Benjamin Davies, The Collector).
The Hellenistic period saw Macedonian rulers on the thrones of both Asian and African empires from 323 BCE until 31 BCE. Although there was certainly a division between the Greek culture of the rulers and the native cultures of the ruled, Hellenistic kings were far more invested in cooperating and displaying themselves as the rightful rulers of their native subjects. However, there were still tensions between the rulers and the ruled. Native rebellions did sometimes erupt and two of these rebellions will be the subject of this article: the Maccabean revolt and the Great Rebellion.

[...]

The "Great Rebellion" of the Ptolemies against the Egyptians is the lesser-known one today. But King Ptolemy IV Philopater appears in the Bible. For more on him, see here and links. And the Rosetta Stone is arguably connected with the aftermath of the revolt.

The Maccabean Revolt is the better-know and more immediately seasonal one. This article gives a good, brief but nuanced, account of that revolt.

Some PaleoJudaica posts on the Maccabean Revolt are here, here, here, and links.

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

National Judith Day?

OLD TESTAMENT APOCRYPHA WATCH, SORT OF: National Judith Day 2023: History, FAQs, Dates, Activities, and Facts About judges. This day is observed as an opportunity to express gratitude to those who share the name Judith on an international scale. The feminine given name Judith is derived from the Hebrew name Yehudit, which translates to "woman of Judea" (unatttributed, Newsd).
... The Hebrew form of the biblical name Judith, Yehudit, translates to “Jewess” or “woman from Judea.”

Apocryphal records of the incident [referent unclear - JRD] can be found in the Book of Judith. Judith’s narrative is replete with tragedy, triumph and determination, sex, deceit, and murder. The narrative of Judith is situated during the Babylonian subjugation of Assyria by Nebuchadnezzar. Judith is identified as Manassas’ affluent widow. It was stated that she possessed an attractive countenance and was a sight to witness.

This is a new one to me. But salutes to all readers named Judith.

There seems to be some confusion in the headline and the article between Judith Day and Judges Day.

For PaleoJudaica posts on the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Book of Judith, its historical background, and its reception history, see here and links, plus here.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Roof tiles from Antiochus's Acra? Maybe.

SAVED UP FOR HANUKKAH? Archaeologists May Have Found Roof Tiles From Antiochus’ Missing Citadel in Jerusalem. Antiochus Epiphanes built a mighty fort in Jerusalem in the second century B.C.E., and may have used ‘pagan’ tiling technology to annoy the Jews a little more (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
Fragments of clay roof tiles dated to the second century B.C.E. have been found in Jerusalem, even though such tiles were unknown in Judea at the time, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday.

These special tiles may have come from none other than the missing Acra – the massive fortress built somewhere in Jerusalem (where is quite the question) by the angry Seleucid Emperor Antiochus IV, aka Antiochus Epiphanes, as part of his drive to subdue the rebellious region in the late second century B.C.E.

[...]

It was more the second quarter of the second century BCE.

In 2015 the first claim came in that remains of Antiochus IV (Epiphanes)'s Acra had been excavated at the Givati parking lot in Jerusalem. It was greeted with some skepticism. See here and here.

These roof tiles potentially add some support to the claim, but there is still a lot of inference involved. And part of what we thought we knew about the Acra's location has to be explained away.

This is one of those things that will probably not be resolved unless we find a plaque inscribed in Greek with "Welcome to the Acra." We'll see.

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Statue smasher acquitted and hospitalized

A "JERUSALEM SYNDROME" DEFENSE: Jerusalem court acquits man who smashed 'blasphemous' statues at Israel Museum. The president of the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court sent him to involuntary hospitalization for four years, a period equal to the maximum prison sentence for the offense attributed to him (YOAV ETIEL, SHLOMI WELLER / WALLA!, Jerusalem Post).

I don't think I got around to this episode when it happened, but you can read the whole story at the link.

For some PaleoJudaica posts on the Jerusalem Syndrome, start here and follow the links.

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

Jonathan N. Tubb (1951–2023)

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Milestones: Jonathan N. Tubb (1951–2023). Leading British archaeologist of the biblical lands (Konstantinos Politis).
Jonathan Tubb, renowned archaeologist and long-time curator of Levantine antiquities at the British Museum, passed away on September 25, 2023 in London. He was 72 years old.

[...]

Cross-file under Sad News and Obituary.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Latest on the Mount Ebal curse tablet / fishing weight

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: Hook, Line, and Sinker: Mt. Ebal Curse Tablet Debunked? Archaeologist offers new interpretation of controversial artifact (Nathan Steinmeyer).

A good summary of the evidence that the object is a fishing weight. Includes a photo of ancient lead fishing weights that look strikingly like the Mount Ebal artifact.

Also, at the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project Official (and Unofficial) Weblog, Aren Maeir reports that Articles on the Mount Ebal lead object have appeared!

Glad to report that the three articles dealing with the lead object from Mount Ebal, have appeared in IEJ.
The new issue is still not up (i.e., for sale) on the IEJ website, but hopefully that will change soon.

Background here and links.

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

Elledge, Early Jewish Writings and New Testament Interpretation (OUP)

NEW BOOK FROM OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS:
Early Jewish Writings and New Testament Interpretation

C.D. Elledge

Essentials of Biblical Studies

Hardback

This item has an extended shipping time. The typical delivery time is 2 weeks.

Published: 21 November 2023

224 Pages

210x140mm

ISBN: 9780190274580

Description

Early Jewish Writings and New Testament Interpretation is a concise, introductory volume to orient undergraduates, seminarians, and interested readers to some of the most important early Jewish writings that currently inform New Testament interpretation. While the literature of Early Judaism is vast, five specific literary categories stand at the forefront of modern New Testament research. These include wisdom writings, apocalypses, rewritten scriptural narratives, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the writings of Philo and Josephus. Individual chapters explain their respective contributions toward interpreting the theological ideas, socio-historical settings, and literary features of specific New Testament writings.

The volume further describes literary collections that the church would later classify as “apocrypha” and “pseudepigrapha,” providing an historically nuanced perspective on what “scripture” might have looked like prior to the formation of the biblical canon. Interpreted within their ancient context, many of these writings offer insight into a religious environment in which Judaism and the nascent church were still emerging religions that had not yet gone their “separate” ways. The reader of the New Testament today can, therefore, understand the indebtedness of the New Testament literature to traditions found in contemporary Jewish works, while also appreciating the creative, new ways in which the church interpreted them.

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Brakke, The Gospel of Judas (AB Commentary)

RECENT BOOK FROM YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS:
The Gospel of Judas
A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary

by David Brakke

Series: The Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries

296 Pages, 6.12 x 9.25 in

Hardcover
$65.00

9780300173260
Published: Tuesday, 22 Feb 2022

A new translation and commentary on the extracanonical Coptic text that describes Judas’ special status among Jesus’ disciples

Since its publication in 2006, The Gospel of Judas has generated remarkable interest and debate among scholars and general readers alike. In this Coptic text from the second century C.E., Jesus engages in a series of conversations with his disciples and with Judas, explaining the origin of the cosmos and its rulers, the existence of another holy race, and the coming end of the current world order.

In this new translation and commentary, David Brakke addresses the major interpretive questions that have emerged since the text’s discovery, exploring the ways that The Gospel of Judas sheds light on the origins and development of gnostic mythology, debates over the Eucharist and communal authority, and Christian appropriation of Jewish apocalyptic eschatology. The translation reflects new analyses of the work’s genre and structure, and the commentary and notes provide thorough discussions of the text’s grammar and numerous lacunae and ambiguities.

This came out in 2022, but somehow I missed it.

For more on David Brakke and his work on the Gospel of Judas, see here. For many other PaleoJudaica posts on the Gospel of Judas, start here and follow the links, notably here.

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Monday, December 04, 2023

Biblical Studies Carnival #212

READING ACTS: Biblical Studies Carnival #212 for November 2023 (Philip J. Long).

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

Olyan, Animal Rights and the Hebrew Bible (OUP)

NEW BOOK FROM OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS:
Animal Rights and the Hebrew Bible

Saul M. Olyan

Hardback

Published: 20 September 2023

152 Pages

235x156mm

ISBN: 9780197609385

Description

Does the Hebrew Bible ascribe an implicit form of legal personhood or legal rights to animals? If so, which animals—domesticated or wild, or both—receive which rights, and for what purpose? Scholars have been slow to consider these questions, and animal-oriented research as a whole, in the field of biblical studies. For the first time, author Saul M. Olyan addresses these questions in detail and explores how the evidence of the Hebrew Bible might contribute to contemporary debates about animal rights in the academy, in the courts, in the public square, and in religious communities.

In this book, Olyan demonstrates that seven different biblical texts extend both legal personhood and rights to animals. The rights conferred upon them are mainly specific and situational, and the legal personhood associated them is in most cases best characterized as limited. Nonetheless, he argues that the animal rights described by these texts are genuine because they are not contingent on the needs or demands of others, they do not disappear or give way because of conflict with the interests of another legal person, and they may not be violated with impunity. Finally, Olyan considers how the biblical texts examined in his analyses might be used to extend or strengthen the arguments of those advocating for animals in judicial, academic, political, or religious settings.

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The Assassination of Sennacherib

BIBLE HISTORY DAILY: The Assassination of Sennacherib. The history behind a little-known biblical story (Nathan Steinmeyer).
The assassination of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, is presented in the Bible as God’s divine justice against an evil king. Outside of the Bible, however, this was one of the most significant events in the history of the ancient Near East. Collecting records and references from contemporary and later sources, historian Christopher Jones has provided a renewed look at this event and its aftermath in the Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History, allowing for the most complete recreation of events to date.

[...]

You can read the abstract of the underlying article at the link, but the article itself is behind the subscription wall. The BHD essay summarizes it.

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

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Pioske, The Bible Among Ruins (CUP)

NEW BOOK FROM CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS:
The Bible Among Ruins
Time, Material Remains, and the World of the Biblical Writers

AUTHOR: Daniel Pioske, University of St Thomas, Minnesota
DATE PUBLISHED: October 2023
AVAILABILITY: In stock
FORMAT: Hardback
ISBN: 9781009412605

£ 85.00
Hardback

Description

Biblical writers lived in a world that was already ancient. The lands familiar to them were populated throughout by the ruins of those who had lived two thousand years earlier. References to ruins abound in the Hebrew Bible, attesting to widespread familiarity with the material remains by those who wrote these texts. Never, however, do we find a single passage that expresses an interest in digging among these ruins to learn about those who lived before. Why? In this book, Daniel Pioske offers the first study of ruination in the Hebrew Bible. Drawing on scholarship in biblical studies, archaeology, contemporary historical theory, and philosophy, he demonstrates how the ancient experience of ruins differed radically from that of the modern era. For biblical writers, ruins were connected to temporalities of memory, presence, and anticipation. Pioske's book recreates the encounter with ruins as it was experienced during antiquity and shows how modern archaeological research has transformed how we read the Bible.

  • The first book that provides a history of ruination in the Hebrew Bible
  • Compares the biblical writers' response to ruination with our own contemporary efforts at archaeological excavation
  • Draws on an inter-disciplinary conversation involving recent developments in biblical scholarship, historical theory, philosophy, and archaeology

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