Saturday, February 04, 2023

Tanit at Ibiza

PUNIC WATCH: Tanit, Ibiza's mythical goddess. Tanit, Ibiza's moon goddess and protector, dedicated to love, fertility, creativity and dance (Will McKenzie, Ibiza Spotlight). Cross-file under Tourism.

For PaleoJudaica posts on Tanit (Tannit), the "snake lady," a Punic and perhaps Phoenician goddess, see here and links. As I have noted before, her name seems to be cognate with the Hebrew word tannin, "sea monster."

If you get bored with partying on your Ibiza trip, you can visit the sites of a couple of Tanit sanctuaries. One is now a cathedral and the other is a (now empty) cave.

For more on Punic remains at Ibiza, see here. And for Ibiza's connection to an apocryphal chain letter from Jesus (yes, really), see here.

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Brand & Scheerlinck (eds.), Religious Identifications in Late Antique Papyri (Routledge - open access)

Religious Identifications in Late Antique Papyri
3rd—12th Century Egypt
Edited By Mattias Brand, Eline Scheerlinck
Copyright Year 2023
Hardback £84.00

Open access content is available for this title.
ISBN 9781032263496
Published October 17, 2022 by Routledge
314 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations

Book Description

This volume provides novel social-scientific and historical approaches to religious identifications in late antique (3rd–12th century) Egyptian papyri, bridging the gap between two academic fields that have been infrequently in full conversation: papyrology and the study of religion.

Through eleven in-depth case studies of Christian, Islamic, “pagan,” Jewish, Manichaean, and Hermetic texts and objects, this book offers new interpretations on markers of religious identity in papyrus documents written in Coptic, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic. Using papyri as a window into the lives of ordinary believers, it explores their religious behavior and choices in everyday life. Three valuable perspectives are outlined and explored in these documents: a critical reflection on the concept of identity and the role of religious groups, a situational reading of religious repertoire and symbols, and a focus on speech acts as performative and efficacious utterances.

Religious Identifications in Late Antique Papyri offers a wide scope and comparative approach to this topic, suitable for students and scholars of late antiquity and Egypt, as well as those interested in late antique religion.

A PDF version of this book is available for free in Open Access at It has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 license.

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Friday, February 03, 2023

Mummification secrets revealed!

ARCHAEO-CHEMISTRY: Secrets to making mummies revealed in ancient urns. Scientists discover the chemicals applied to corpses in a 2700-year-old mummification workshop (Andrew Curry,

This headline would make a good logline for a horror movie. The reality, though is more mundane. So far ...

By identifying residues from labeled jars found in an ancient Egyptian mummification workshop, the researchers were able to show the process involved complex chemistry and exotic ingredients, including resins sourced from a continent away. “You can actually look into the vessels and see what’s still inside,” says Barbara Huber, an archaeological scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology who was not involved with the research.
Ariel David has an article at Haaretz with more details: How to Make a Mummy: Archaeologists Reveal Ancient Recipe for Embalming in Egypt. Analysis of 2,600-year-old ceramics from embalming workshop at Saqqara, Egypt shows mummification process included products sourced from as far as Southeast Asia.
The ancient Egyptians believed that preserving the body of the deceased was essential to ensure the soul’s continued existence in the afterlife, and the richer you were the more effort and money were poured into the embalming process.

Just how much effort can be gleaned from the new study, which identified the substances held in 31 beakers and bowls found at the Saqqara complex. The workshop, excavated in 2018, served as a one-stop-shop funeral home for Egypt’s elites in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.E.

Yet another important discovery at Saqqara. (UPDATE [14 February]: For still more on Saqqara, see here.

Back in 2006, archaeologists announced the discovery of a "room for mummification" in the Valley of the Kings. For more on room KV-63 (KV63), see here.

According to Genesis 50:1-3, the body of the patriarch Jacob was embalmed by the Egyptians in a forty-day process. The story seems to be saying that he was mummified.

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Biblical Studies Carnival 203

MATTERS OF INTERPRETATION: Biblical Studies Carnival #203 (Heather Theissen). For January 2023.

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Thursday, February 02, 2023

Miriam in the Dead Sea Scrolls

PROF. HANNA TERVANOTKO: More about Miriam the Prophetess (
The Dead Sea Scrolls elaborate on Miriam’s leadership role and personal history.

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Review of Be Fruitful! The Etrog ...

BOOK REVIEW: Etrog: The significance of this Sukkot fruit in Judaism - review. When is a piece of fruit more than a piece of fruit? The history and meaning of the etrog is explored in a new book (MARTIN LOCKSHIN, Jerusalem Post).
Warren Klein, Sharon Liberman Mintz and Joshua Teplitzky have edited a collection of 18 fascinating essays that outline and explain the appeal of the etrog: Be Fruitful! The Etrog in Jewish Art, Culture, and History.
For PaleoJudaica posts on the etrog (citron) and its relation to Sukkot and its appearance on ancient coins and mosaics, see here, here, here, here, here, here, and links.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Ethiopian Jews and their sacred books

ETHIOPIC WATCH: Ethiopian Jews and Their Sacred Scripture. The African Jewish holy books that the rabbis never read (Yaacov Gonchel, Tablet Magazine).
What texts did the bahtawi and aqhshti learn and teach the people? The early Italian maskil Samuel David Luzzatto (1800-65), whose interest in the matter was piqued by his son Filosseno (1829-54), posed this very question to a bahtawi named Abba Yitzhak, who in response compiled a list of 62 books sacred to Ethiopian Jews (others have a slightly higher count). The omission of rabbinic literature remains striking, but of further interest is the commingling of scriptural books that form part of the rabbinically authorized canon with those deemed “external books.” For Ethiopian Jews, some of the latter are considered especially sacred and beloved. Before turning to this literature, however, a few words must be said about its language and form.
Besides the books of the Hebrew Bible, this literature includes the Book of Jubilees, the Book of Enoch, and a number of the Old Testament Apocrypha. They are written (translated into) the old Ethopic language Ge'ez.

For more on the Ethiopic Bible, see here and links.

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More images of Oxyrhynchus papyri at the Bodleian

VARIANT READINGS: More Digital Images of Papyri at the Bodleian Online (Brent Nongbri). Including Greek fragments from Oxyrhynchus of the Gospel of Thomas and the Book of Psalms.

Background here and here.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Intact 52-foot Book of the Dead scroll found in Egypt

SCROLL DISCOVERY: 52-foot-long Book of the Dead papyrus from ancient Egypt discovered at Saqqara. For the first time in 100 years, a full "Book of the Dead" papyrus has been uncovered at Saqqara (Owen Jarus, Live Science).

A few observations.

This scroll is about twice as long as the longest Dead Sea Scroll, the Temple Scroll.

One would have thought that the Saqqara necropolis would have long since been cleared of all notable antiqities. It was steadily plundered for thousands of years. Archaeologists have been exploring it since the nineteenth century. Yet somehow this enormous intact scroll escaped attention until just now. As the article notes (and as I did), a shorter, damaged scroll, also containing material from the Book of the Dead, was also discovered in 2022.

Saqqara has recently produced other remarkable finds, including a large cache of mummies still in their sarcophagi and a mummy covered in gold leaf.

Egypt in general has been relentlessly plundered since civilization got underway there and, for more than a century, thoroughly explored by responsible archaeologists. Just in the last couple of years archaeologists have found a very old monastery, golden-tongued mummies, a misplaced city, an inscription of Pharaoh Hophra, a cache of 18,000 inscribed ostraca, a "new" Cairo Geniza, a temple of Zeus, a temple of Isis with tombs, documentary texts, etc., and a big tunnel, maybe to Cleopatra's tomb. These are just stories that I happened to notice and thought would be of interest to PaleoJudaica readers.

The point? Even in Egypt, one of the most intensely explored regions for antiquites, discoveries are still coming in right and left. There is every indication that there is more to be found.

And if there are intact 16-meter ancient scrolls still lying around in Egypt, what does that say about the potential for new scroll finds in Israel? Israel has fewer areas that have the right climactic conditions to preserve scrolls. But there are still promising regions. Besides the Dead Sea region and Samaria, both of which have produced remarkable scroll discoveries, both Megiddo and the Timna Valley have potential. I have discussed the matter here.

Searchers continue to find small bits of scrolls and they probably will for a long time. But the two scrolls found recently in Saqqara give me additional hope that there may be substantial ancient scrolls still buried in Israel, waiting to be found.

We'll see.

UPDATE (3 February): For another new discovery at Saqqara, see here.

Also, I should have mentioned the recent discovery of 1,300-year-old textiles in the Arava. This is another region where scroll or book fragments could be awaiting us.

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Ancient wine press and mosaic damaged in Galilee

APPREHENDED: Nabbed antiquities robbers cause ‘heart-breaking damage’ to ancient wine press. Israel Antiquities Authority says two suspects caught ‘red-handed’ at Soger, in Western Galilee, as they dug beneath and destroyed a 2,000-year-old mosaic floor (Times of Israel).

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Runesson, Judaism for Gentiles (Mohr Siebeck)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Anders Runesson. Judaism for Gentiles. Reading Paul beyond the Parting of the Ways Paradigm. In collaboration with Rebecca Runesson. 2022. X, 394 pages. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 494. 159,00 € including VAT. cloth ISBN 978-3-16-159328-4.
Published in English.
For almost two millennia, readers of the New Testament have been trying to figure out Paul. The struggle with his words begins already within the canon itself. While Acts portrays with ease a Torah-observant, Pharisaic-messianic Paul working in partnership with James and other leaders in Jerusalem, the author of 2 Peter famously admitted that the apostle to the nations is difficult to understand. From that moment on debate has ebbed and flowed on all things Pauline; on women as leaders in assemblies and on the status of Jews and Gentiles in God's plan, just to mention two of the contentious topics associated with Paul. For clergy, scholar, and lay person, Paul's letters hold weight and continue to draw in new readers. Anders Runesson seeks to listen to the voice of the historical Paul – a Jew proclaiming a form of Judaism to non-Jews to save them from divine wrath – but also to probe what it means to breathe new life into this historical figure in the twenty-first century.

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Monday, January 30, 2023

Alex Joffe says goodbye to ANE Today

THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST TODAY: Hello I Must Be Going: The ANE Today Editor Says Goodbye.

Alex Joffe, the founding editor, reflects on his decade of editorship. With many good points. Excerpt:

So academics, sit down and write something aimed at your mother. Explain why what you do or what you’ve found is cool and exciting and new and important. Give the reader some of your enthusiasm, in words we can all understand. You owe it everyone and also to yourselves, as a matter of self-preservation and self-respect.

And dear reader, please keep reading ANE Today (which is sure to thrive under its new editor Jessica Nitschke) but up your demands from academics. ...

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Bloch, Ancient Jewish Diaspora (Brill)

Ancient Jewish Diaspora

Essays on Hellenism

Series: Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, Volume: 206

Author: René Bloch

In the Hellenistic period, Jews participated in the imagination of a cosmopolitan world and they developed their own complex cultural forms. In this panoramic and multifaceted book, RenĂ© Bloch shows that the ancient Jewish diaspora is an integral part of what we understand as Hellenism and argues that Jewish Hellenism epitomizes Hellenism at large. Relying on Greek, Latin and Hebrew sources, the fifteen papers collected in this volume trace the evidence of ancient Jews through meticulous studies of ruins, literature, myth and modern reception taking the reader on a journey from Philo’s Alexandria to a Roman bust in a Copenhagen museum.

Copyright Year: 2023

Prices from (excl. shipping): €133.00

E-Book (PDF)
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-52189-6
Publication date: 19 Sep 2022

Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-52188-9
Publication date: 14 Nov 2022

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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Septuaginta varia

It’s that time of year when academics begin to emerge slowly from the malaise that sets in between SBL and New Year’s Day. I count myself among that number, as it seems like the last two weeks have suddenly burst into new activity, much of which is follow-up from the conferences in late November.

So in that spirit, I thought I’d post a kind of round-up for all things Septuagint — at least those things that have come to my attention. Here’s the rundown:

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