Saturday, March 04, 2023

Review of The Lexham Old Testament Apocrypha

READING ACTS: The Lexham Old Testament Apocrypha: A New Translation (Phil Long).
Conclusion: The subtitle “A New Translation” is misleading since the majority of this new edition of the Apocrypha is extracted from the Lexham English Septuagint. If you already own the Lexham English Septuagint, then there is little need to add the Lexham Old Testament Apocrypha to your Logos library since they are identical, except for 2 Esdras and deSilva’s introductions. However, the printed book is an inexpensive translation of the Apocrypha (plus) which will serve students of the Second Temple period.
For more on the Lexham English Septuagint, see here and here.

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List of C-14 dated manuscripts

VARIANT READINGS: Radiocarbon Analysis of Papyrus and Parchment Manuscripts: A List (Brent Nongbri).
It occurs to me that it would be useful to have (as complete as possible) a list of papyrus and parchment manuscripts that have been subjected to radiocarbon analysis. I have tried to arrange this list chronologically by the date when the analysis was carried out (which sometimes differs substantially from the date of publication). I would be grateful to be informed of omissions (especially Pharaonic-era papyri and medieval parchment manuscripts; I know that many have been analyzed, but I am not aware of the publication details). Thanks in advance. Links are provided for open access materials.
Looks very useful. Thanks Brent.

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Friday, March 03, 2023

The Darius ostracon was a modern showpiece?

OOPS: Unfounded: Ancient Darius inscription shard isn’t authentic – Antiquities Authority. Officials backtrack on claim of find linked to Purim king’s father, say fragment was created by an expert showing inscription techniques to students, accidentally left at dig site (Times of Israel).
However, on Friday, the IAA said that following the publication of the find they were approached by an expert who participated in an excavation expedition last August, who informed the authority that she had created the inscription “while demonstrating to a group of students the manner in which sherds were inscribed in ancient times.”

“She then left the sherd on the site, which led to the erroneous identification. She was questioned and said this was done unintentionally and without malice,” the statement said.

If we assume this update is correct – and I don't know what's real anymore – the key takeaway is this. When the original story broke, we were assured of the following:
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.
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.

I said that this find seemed awfully lucky and that my instinct was that the object was a modern plant. Well, it wasn't planted deliberately. Otherwise my instinct was right.

But I trusted the authentication. Again, assuming this revised story bears up, from now on I am trusting my instincts.

Have a nice weekend.

UPDATE (4 March): Ruth Schuster provides additional details in an Haaretz article: Israel Antiquities Authority: ‘Ancient’ Darius Inscription Deemed Inauthentic in Mix-up. A world expert on Aramaic scripts on a foreign expedition in Tel Lachish had written on the shard of pottery as a demonstration to students illustrating how pottery was inscribed in ancient times.

Following the announcement, a world expert on Aramaic scripts who was participating in a foreign expedition to Lachish last August contacted the IAA and explained that she had demonstrated how sherds were inscribed in ancient times to students by scratching on an existing sherd at the site. She then left the ancient sherd with the modern addition on the site, the IAA stated.

That is proper practice in the sense that removing any artifact from an archaeological site in Israel is prohibited, but in this case its subsequent discovery four months later led to confusion. “She was questioned and said this was done unintentionally and without malice,” the IAA said.

The potsherd itself was ancient, but the inscription was scratched onto it last year. I guess that is why it passed all the scans and tests as authentic.

In this case the object was made with no intent to deceive. But it raises the question, how many other unprovenanced, but supposedly-genuine, inscribed (incised) ostraca are modern forgeries made in exactly the same way?

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

The Bar'am Synagogue

ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE: Exploring Israel: A Visit to a 1,600–year–old Synagogue. The ancient synagogue at the Bar'am National Park, near the Lebanese border, makes it easy to imagine the ancient Galilean worshipers congregating there (Moshe Gilad, Haaretz).
Even in a country replete with antiquities, it’s rare to find such a magnificent, well-preserved edifice. The 1,600-year-old synagogue in the Bar'am National Park, near Israel's border with Lebanon, is one of the oldest, best-preserved ancient buildings in the country. The lintel stones are decorated with branches, vines and inscriptions in Aramaic, the language spoken by Galilean Jews during the Mishnaic and Talmudic periods.


Previous posts on the Bar'am (Baram) Synagogue are here and links.

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When did copying a Torah scroll became a sacred process?

PROF. EMANUEL TOV: The Torah Scroll: How the Copying Process Became Sacred (
For most Second Temple scribes, the Torah’s sanctity did not translate into a requirement to avoid the imprecisions common in all books. The Paleo-Hebrew and Proto-MT scribes were an exception, although the latter were committed to precise copying of all biblical scrolls. Only with the emergence of scrolls containing all five books (2nd cent. C.E.) did Torah scrolls take on their special level of sanctification.
Drew Longacre has comments at the OTTC Blog.

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

The Sassoon family and their collections

ANTIQUARIANS: The sensational collections of the Sassoon family (Tom Stammers, Apollo Magazine).
In recent years, the story of David Sassoon and his remarkable descendants has been a subject of interest to scholars, collectors and curators. Having succeeded in cracking the Baghdadi-Jewish dialect the family used in the correspondence preserved in the Jerusalem archives, business historian Joseph Sassoon has chronicled their success as global merchants. In December 2020 Sotheby’s New York presented ‘Sassoon: A Golden Legacy’, which fetched $5 million, far outstripping estimates and attracting bidders from all over the world. Sharon Mintz, Sotheby’s senior consultant for Judaica, attributed the result to the ‘dazzling quality of the objects together with the storied legacy of the family’. Now a major exhibition at the Jewish Museum in New York, curated by Claudia Nahson and Esther da Costa Meyer and opening this month (3 March–13 August), digs into the stories and the objects that have made the family name into both a brand and a myth.
The Codex Sassoon, reportedly the oldest complete copy of the Hebrew Bible, is going up for auction in May. It was part of the collection of of bibliophile and manuscript collector David Solomon Sassoon, although it now has another owner.

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

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Biblical Studies Carnival 204

THE AMATEUR EXEGETE: Biblical Studies Carnival #204 (February 2023) (Ben). There are a lot of YouTube entries in this one. A sign of changing times?

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Today is Mani's death day, maybe.

MANICHEISM (MANICHAEISM) WATCH: The Prophet Mani and Christianity’s Problem with Dualism (James Ishmael Ford, Monkey Mind Blog).

This is a good, brief summary of the life of Mani and his influence. It concludes with some theological reflections. I leave you to evaluate those yourself.

If you would like a much deeper dive into Mani's life, including the question of the date of his death, see Werner Sundermann's article MANI in the online Encyclopaedia Iranica

One thing Revd. Ford's essay does not mention is that one of Mani's scriptures was a version of the Book of Giants. It was perhaps written in Syriac and seems to be based on the Jewish Aramaic Book of Giants, fragments of which survive in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Our surviving fragments of Mani's Book of Giants are written in Middle Persian (various languages) and Old Turkic translations.

For some PaleoJudaica posts on the Book of Giants, see here and here and links.

The second volume of the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project will include translations of all surviving fragments of the book.

For many posts on the prophet Mani, see here, here, here, and links.

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

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Ostracon mentioning Darius I found at Lachish

NORTHWEST SEMITIC EPIGRAPHY: Hiker discovers 2,500-year-old ancient receipt from reign of Purim king’s father. Eylon Levy, international media adviser to President Isaac Herzog, finds ostracon at Tel Lachish with the first-ever reference in Israel to the name of Persian king Darius I (MELANIE LIDMAN, Times of Israel).
A hiker in Israel’s Judean lowlands region recently discovered a 2,500-year-old pottery shard inscribed with the name of the Persian king Darius the Great, the father of king Ahasuerus. It is the first discovery of an inscription bearing the name of Darius I anywhere in Israel, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday.


It seems awfully lucky to find an inscribed ostracon bearing a date and the name of a king mentioned in the Bible (e.g. Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 1:1; Ezra 6:1; Nehemeiah 12:22) just lying around. Like the finder, my first instinct was to think it might be a modern plant. But the IAA says they have run multiple tests on it and they think it is authentic. Sometimes you're just lucky.

For the Canaanite sentence on a lice comb from Lachish, see here. For two early inscribed ostraca found at Lachish in recent years, see here and links. For the "Lachish letters" — inscribed ostraca excavated at Lachish about a century ago, see here and links. For more on the archaeology of Lachish in general, see here and here and links.

UPDATE (3 March): If it seems awfully lucky, that's almost certainly because it's not real.

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

Saranda synagogue signage restored

MAINTENANCE: Dignity restored to ancient Jewish site in Albania, thanks to concerned visitor (World Israel News).
“This is a beautiful thing for tourists and locals alike, and finally gives the dignity due to this important Jewish site,” says Dave Gordon, who advocated for repairs to signage at the ruins of the 1,700-year-old synagogue.
Well good.

I noted the discovery in 2003 of the late-antique synagogue ruins in Saranda, Albania. See here and here.

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Tombs excavated at Oxyrhynchus

OXYRHYNCHUS WATCH: Group Of Persian, Roman and Coptic Tombs Discovered In Egypt (Paula Tsoni, Greek Reporter).
The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced on Friday the discovery of a group of tombs from the Persian, Roman and Coptic eras in the Al-Bhansa region, Minya governorate.


Most of the media coverage does not realize that Al-Bhansa is also Oxyrhychus, the place where a gigantic trove of inscribe papyri was recovered in trash dumps over a century ago. The papyri are still being deciphered and edited.

There is no indication that the current excavation found any papyri. But there is a report of murals inscribed in Greek and Coptic at the site.

For many PaleoJudaica posts on Oxyrhynchus and its papyri, start here and follow the links.

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

Monday, February 27, 2023

Robots RePAIR Pompeii's frescoes

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Solving Pompeii’s Shattered Puzzles With a Robot. Artificial intelligence will aid the robot in its attempts to put together frescoes that were shattered when Mount Vesuvius erupted (Ofer Aderet, Haaretz).
Many vestiges of Pompeii such as mosaics and frescoes have been preserved in their entirety because they were buried under the volcanic ash. In the 18th century, the first archaeologists to excavate the city discovered these works.

The 15,000 stones apparently were parts of frescoes that the eruption scattered in all directions. After painstaking work, archaeologists and other researchers concluded that the challenge was beyond human capabilities.

Prof. Ohad Ben-Shahar of Ben-Gurion University’s Department of Computer Science agrees, so the Sisyphean task will be done by a robot fueled by artificial intelligence.

Cross-file under Algorithm Watch and Decorative Art.

For many PaleoJudaica posts on the eruption of Vesuvius and its destruction of Pompeii and Heculaneum, start here and follow the links

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

Hallmark meets the Golem

GOLEM WATCH: From dust to human: A new Hallmark rom-com puts a twist on the Jewish golem legend. ‘Made for Each Other,’ written by Israeli-American screenwriter Adi Blotman, centers around a mystical 16th-century folktale, with a 21st-century twist (Amy Spiro, Times of Israel).
In the film, Rachel Becker, a sculptor and art teacher played by Alexandra Turshan, feels unlucky in love. She sculpts her ideal man out of clay and, egged on by her neighbor Doris (Illeana Douglas), places an old pendant with Hebrew letters around his neck. The next day, her perfect man has come to life, named, of course, Clay.
For many PaleoJudaica posts on the golem tradition, start here and follow the links. Despite the relatively recent origin of the Golem of Prague, the concept of the golem developed out of ideas in the Talmud.

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

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Meccariello & Singletary (eds.) Uses and Misuses of Ancient Mediterranean Sources (Mohr Siebeck)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Uses and Misuses of Ancient Mediterranean Sources. Erudition, Authority, Manipulation. Edited by Chiara Meccariello and Jennifer Singletary. Studies in Education and Religion in Ancient and Pre-Modern History in the Mediterranean and Its Environs 12. 69,00 € including VAT. hardcover ISBN 978-3-16-159943-9.
Published in English.
This interdisciplinary collection of essays explores the use and manipulation of ancient textual sources from different settings across the ancient Mediterranean as a key to understanding the dissemination of religious and mythological knowledge in different historical contexts. In a series of case studies focusing on texts and artifacts from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Israel, Greece, and Rome, and their ancient as well as modern reuse, this volume displays multiple approaches to and perspectives on strategies of incorporation of derivative materials in antiquity and beyond.

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Eshel & Langlois (eds.), The Scribe in the Biblical World (De Gruyter)

The Scribe in the Biblical World

A Bridge Between Scripts, Languages and Cultures

Edited by: Esther Eshel and Michael Langlois

Volume 547 in the series Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft

PDF & EPUB £87.00
Hardcover £87.00

Published: December 5, 2022
ISBN: 9783110984293

Published: December 5, 2022
ISBN: 9783110996685

About this book

This book offers a fresh look at the status of the scribe in society, his training, practices, and work in the biblical world.

What was the scribe’s role in these societies? Were there rival scribal schools? What was their role in daily life? How many scripts and languages did they grasp? Did they master political and religious rhetoric? Did they travel or share foreign traditions, cultures, and beliefs? Were scribes redactors, or simply copyists? What was their influence on the redaction of the Bible? How did they relate to the political and religious powers of their day? Did they possess any authority themselves?

These are the questions that were tackled during an international conference held at the University of Strasbourg on June 17–19, 2019. The conference served as the basis for this publication, which includes fifteen articles covering a wide geographical and chronological range, from Late Bronze Age royal scribes to refugees in Masada at the end of the Second Temple period.

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