Saturday, May 06, 2023

The Coronation

THE CORONATION OF KING CHARLES III today has roots in ancient Israelite and ancient Near Eastern traditions, with many fascinating and sometimes surprising cultural pathways and byways. Here is some coverage:

The Jewish traditions behind pomp of Charles III’s big day. The coronation of King Solomon provides the template for Saturday's ceremony (Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, The Jewish Chronicle).

The coronation this Saturday will no doubt be seen around the world as an example of British pageantry and pomp at its best. But few will realise its quintessential Jewish roots.

From Saul to David, Jews always did a good coronation. Charles will emerge, as did King Saul, no longer the man he was (Howard Jacobson, The Jewish Chronicle).

Will they play Zadok the Priest at the coronation? Origins of the Champions League anthem and who wrote it. ‘Zadok the Priest’ was composed by George Frideric Handel for the coronation of King George II in 1727 (Alex Finnis, i news)

Long live the King… of Kings! Accession ritual in ancient Persia. As we look towards the coronation ceremony that will unfold in Westminster Abbey on Saturday 6 May, Professor Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones considers how other monarchs in history have been ordained and explores the enthronement rituals of ancient Persia (The British Museum Blog; for the author, cf. here and here).

The Christian symbolism in the coronation regalia is laid out in detail here:

Coronation rite imbued with ancient symbolism. William Gulliford explains the significance of the coronation regalia (Church Times)

Congratuations and best wishes to King Charles and the British people.

UPDATE (13 May): More here. Aramaic at the coronation.

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Friday, May 05, 2023

More on the Negev wine grapes

ANCIENT VITICULTURE: Modern Israeli grapes linked to grapes in the Bible - study. The seeds were found at archaeological excavations led by Prof. Guy Bar-Oz and colleagues from the University of Haifa’s School of Archaeology and Maritime Cultures (Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, Jerusalem Post).
Seeds that provide a genetic link between two modern varieties of red and white grapes cultivated over 1,100 years ago – and apparently were mentioned in two different books of the Bible – have resulted in an “extraordinary and thrilling discovery” by archaeologists at Tel Aviv University (TAU) and the University of Haifa.

[...]

I noted the underlying article here. This Jerusalem Post article is more reader friendly. For more on the same archaeo-botany project, see here.

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Llewellyn-Jones, Ancient Persia and the Book of Esther (Bloomsbury)

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Ancient Persia and the Book of Esther. Notice of a New Book: Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd. 2023. Ancient Persia and the Book of Esther: Achaemenid Court Culture in the Hebrew Bible. London: Bloomsbury.

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Bay, Biblical Heroes and Classical Culture in Christian Late Antiquity (CUP)

NEW BOOK FROM CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS:
Biblical Heroes and Classical Culture in Christian Late Antiquity
The Historiography, Exemplarity, and Anti-Judaism of Pseudo-Hegesippus

AUTHOR: Carson Bay, Universit├Ąt Bern, Switzerland DATE PUBLISHED: November 2022
AVAILABILITY: Available
FORMAT: Hardback
ISBN: 9781009268561

£ 90.00 Hardback

Description

In this volume, Carson Bay focuses on an important but neglected work of Late Antiquity: Pseudo-Hegesippus' On the Destruction of Jerusalem (De Excidio Hierosolymitano), a Latin history of later Second Temple Judaism written during the fourth century CE. Bay explores the presence of so many Old Testament figures in a work that recounts the Roman-Jewish War (66–73 CE) and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. By applying the lens of Roman exemplarity to Pseudo-Hegesippus, he elucidates new facets of Biblical reception, history-writing, and anti-Judaism in a text from the formative first century of Christian Empire. The author also offers new insights into the Christian historiographical imagination and how Biblical heroes and Classical culture helped Christians to write anti-Jewish history. Revealing novel aspects of the influence of the Classical literary tradition on early Christian texts, this book also newly questions the age-old distinction between the Christian and the Classical (or 'pagan') in the ancient Mediterranean world.

  • Offers extensive English translations of key portions of Pseudo-Hegesippus (De Excidio Hierosolymitano) with extended analysis and comparison with source texts and comparanda from Biblical, Classical, early Christian, and Jewish literature (all for the first time)
  • Provides a comprehensive analysis and exhaustive overview of the Old Testament figures in a rarely-studied Latin history from late antiquity
  • Shows how the Christian appropriation of biblical figures could and did fuel anti-Jewish history-writing in the first century of Christian empire
For Pseudo-Hegesippus' De excidio Hierosolymita see here, as well as here and here.

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Thursday, May 04, 2023

An Akkadian translation algorithm

ALGORITHM WATCH: Israeli experts create AI to translate ancient cuneiform text - study Researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) and Ariel University have developed an artificial intelligence model that can automatically translate Akkadian text written in cuneiform into English (Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, Jerusalem Post).

It is impressive for an algorithm to produce even approximate translations of Akkadian into English. But this one still requires significant human intervention:

When they developed the new machine-learning model, they trained two versions – one that translates the Akkadian from representations of the cuneiform signs in Latin script and another that translates from unicode representations of the cuneiform signs. The first version, using Latin transliteration, gave more satisfactory results in this study, achieving a score of 37.47 in the Best Bilingual Evaluation Understudy 4 (BLEU4), which is a test of the level of correspondence between machine and human translation of the same text.
Trust me, that first stage of transliterating the cuneiform signs, or even identifying them for unicode, would be a lot of work.

This is amusing:

The program is most effective when translating sentences of 118 or fewer characters. In some of the sentences, the program produced “hallucinations” – output that was syntactically correct in English but not accurate.
Back in my postgraduate days, my fellow students and I were well acquainted with Akkadian translation "hallucinations."

I have noted other algorithm projects for cuneiform studies here and here.

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Power, The Significance of Linguistic Diversity in the Hebrew Bible (Mohr Siebeck)

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: Cian Power. The Significance of Linguistic Diversity in the Hebrew Bible. Language and Boundaries of Self and Other. 2022. XIX, 345 pages. Forschungen zum Alten Testament 2. Reihe 138. 99,00 € including VAT. sewn paper ISBN 978-3-16-159324-6.
Published in English.
Cian J. Power explores how the biblical authors viewed and presented a fundamental human reality: the existence of the world's many languages. By examining explicit references to this diversity – such as the ambivalent account of its origins in the Tower of Babel episode – and implicit acknowledgements that included the use of strange-sounding speech to portray alien peoples, he illuminates ideas about Aramaic, Egyptian, Akkadian, and other ancient languages. Drawing on sociolinguistics, Power detects a consistent link between language and – ethnic, political, religious, and divine/human boundaries, and argues that changing historical circumstances are key to the Bible's varying attitudes. Furthermore, the study's findings regarding the biblical authors' ideas about their own language and its importance challenge our very notion of Hebrew.

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SBL review panel on Carlson, Unfamiliar Selves; Carlson responds

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW has published another essay in its SBL review-panel series on Reed Carlson's book, Unfamiliar Selves in the Hebrew Bible: Possession and Other Spirit Phenomena (De Gruyter 2022). This one is the author's response to the earlier essays.
Response to the Forum on Unfamiliar Selves in the Hebrew Bible (Reed Carlson)

... The respondents made many more excellent points, not all of which I have the space to address and contemplate here. I can say with complete honesty, however, that this panel has given me yet more to think about on this topic, which has been, for me at least, an unending well of delightful curiosity. ...

I noted the earlier essays here and links.

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

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Exhibition: the late-antique glass factory at Jalame

ANCIENT MATERIAL CULTURE: How Did the Romans Make Glass? A Hill in Israel Knows. The Romans were famed for their glass – all made using raw glass manufactured in ancient Israel, Lebanon and Egypt. A new exhibit at New York's Corning Museum sheds light on the process and why the ancient glassmakers had to move shop every 10 years (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
Why is Corning now celebrating the glass industry of yore based on a workshop from the middle of the story of glass? And the workshop was an unremarkable one at that, operating on a remote hilltop in northern Israel during the sunset of the Romans.

Well, the excavation and the historical record at Jalame have become a textbook for scholars of ancient glass manufacturing, say Yael Gorin, head of glass at the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Katherine Larson, curator of ancient glass at Corning.

For more on ancient glass and glass production, including another glass kilns workshop discovered in Israel in 2016, see here and links (cf. here, here, and here).

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

The New Cambridge Companion to Biblical Interpretation

NEW BOOK FROM CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS:
The New Cambridge Companion to Biblical Interpretation

Part of Cambridge Companions to Religion

EDITORS:Ian Boxall, Catholic University of America, Washington DCBradley C. Gregory, Catholic University of America, Washington DC
DATE PUBLISHED: December 2022
AVAILABILITY: Available
FORMAT: Paperback
ISBN: 9781108796675

£ 26.99 Paperback

Description

This Cambridge Companion offers an up-to-date and accessible guide to the fast-changing discipline of biblical studies. Written by scholars from diverse backgrounds and religious commitments – many of whom are pioneers in their respective fields – the volume covers a range of contemporary scholarly methods and interpretive frameworks. The volume reflects the diversity and globalized character of biblical interpretation in which neat boundaries between author-focused, text-focused, and reader-focused approaches are blurred. The significant space devoted to the reception of the Bible – in art, literature, liturgy, and religious practice – also blurs the distinction between professional and popular biblical interpretation. The volume provides an ideal introduction to the various ways that scholars are currently interpreting the Bible. It offers both beginning and advanced students an understanding of the state of biblical interpretation, and how to explore each topic in greater depth.

  • Provides discussions of different areas of biblical interpretation by leading scholars of that approach
  • Includes authors from diverse backgrounds and commitments
  • Devotes substantial space to methods, frameworks, and the history of reception

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SBL review panel on Carlson, Unfamiliar Selves, part 4

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW has published another essay in its SBL review-panel series on Reed Carlson's book, Unfamiliar Selves in the Hebrew Bible: Possession and Other Spirit Phenomena (De Gruyter 2022):
Jewish Spirits and Christian Specters (Ethan Schwartz)

... This book is a crucial entry in the study of biblical spirit phenomena. I am confident that it will play a prominent role in future work on the topic. Yet in some ways, what I want to suggest is that the most significant and wide-ranging contribution of Carlson’s book is how he invites us to think about what it means to contend with problematic intellectual-historical genealogies in the discipline—even, and perhaps especially, when those contentions are messy and not entirely successful. ...

I noted the earlier essays here and links.

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

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

More on the Moroccan "genizas"

ARCHAEOLOGY AND POLITICS: Abraham Accords allow Israelis to excavate two huge ‘genizas’ found in rural Morocco. Normalization lets Israeli researchers formalize ties with Moroccan experts to investigate remnants of Jewish life – with aid of Israelis who once lived in those abandoned villages (MELANIE LIDMAN, Times of Israel).
One of the challenges with archaeological excavations in southern Morocco is that all of the buildings were made from mud, which makes them very difficult to unearth and exceptionally susceptible to destruction from the elements afterward. It requires a painstaking process of slow excavation and immediate conservation by using local artisans and materials to rebuild the buildings in the same manner, explained [BGU archaeologist Professor] Yuval Yekutieli.

“When we got there there was no roof and the columns were tipping over, the walls were falling apart,” recalled Yekutieli. In Akka, just before the Jews fled they dug a hole in the bima, the central prayer platform, and buried letters, magical charms written on parchment paper, and sacred texts including Torah scrolls. In Tamanart, they placed their holy objects in a hole in the wall.

I noted this discovery last year here. The sites date from the seventeenth century to living memory, far outside PaleoJudaica's usual range. But as an archaeological and manuscript treasure trove the excavation deserves some attention.

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

Olariu, Theodotion’s Greek Text of Daniel (Brill)

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL:
Theodotion’s Greek Text of Daniel

An Analysis of the Revisional Process and Its Semitic Source

Series: Supplements to the Textual History of the Bible, Volume: 7

Author: Daniel Olariu

This study advances our knowledge regarding the character of the version of Daniel attributed to Theodotion within the larger framework of the Theodotionic problem in Septuagint research. This is achieved in two ways. In addition to demonstrating the recensional character of Theodotion-Daniel and describing its revising techniques, it also breaks new ground on Theodotion’s Hebrew-Aramaic source. The findings compellingly argue for the theory that Theodotion-Daniel is a systematic revision of the Old Greek in conformity with a Semitic text form which often preserved original readings against the Masoretic Text and the Qumran scrolls.

Prices from (excl. shipping): €142.00

Copyright Year: 2023

E-Book (PDF)
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-52788-1
Publication date: 27 Mar 2023

Hardback
Availability: Published
ISBN: 978-90-04-52705-8
Publication date: 30 Mar 2023

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Biblical Studies Carnival 206

READING ACTS: Biblical Studies Carnival 206 for April 2023 (Phil Long).

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Monday, May 01, 2023

Exhibition on the Afghan "Geniza" manuscripts

UPCOMING: A glimpse into the mysterious Jewish community of Afghanistan. Nex exhibition will shed light on lost Jewish community largely erased by Gengis Khan and Mongol conquest 'we simply knew nothing about,' says curator (YItzhak Tesler, YNet News).
In a few months, with the inauguration of the new building of the National Library of Israel, millennium-old historical documents belonging to the lost Jewish community of Afghanistan will be presented for the first time.

[...]

Background here and links going back to 2011.

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

Wold, Qumran Wisdom and the New Testament (CUP)

NEW BOOK FROM CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS:
Qumran Wisdom and the New Testament
Exploring Early Jewish and Christian Textual Cultures

AUTHOR: Benjamin Wold, Trinity College Dublin
DATE PUBLISHED: December 2022
AVAILABILITY: Available
FORMAT: Hardback
ISBN: 9781009305068

£ 85.00 Hardback

Description

In this book, Benjamin Wold builds on recent developments in the study of early Jewish wisdom literature and brings it to bear on the New Testament. This scholarship has been transformed by the discovery at Qumran of more than 900 manuscripts, including Hebrew wisdom compositions, many of which were published in critical editions beginning in the mid-1990s. Wold systematically explores the salient themes in the Jewish wisdom worldview found in these scrolls. He also presents detailed commentaries on translations and articulates the key debates regarding Qumran wisdom literature, highlighting the significance of wisdom within the context of Jewish textual culture. Wold's treatment of themes within the early Jewish and Christian textual cultures demonstrates that wisdom transcended literary form and genre. He shows how and why the publication of these ancient texts has engendered profound shifts in the study of early Jewish wisdom, and their relevance to current controversies regarding the interpretation of specific New Testament texts.

  • Provides a systematic treatment of themes characteristic to the early Jewish wisdom worldview
  • Analyses debated fragments and their translation that are significant for understanding Jewish wisdom in the period
  • Introduces key debates in the study of Qumran wisdom literature

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

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Where did the money to build the Colosseum come from?

ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE: The Colosseum’s Jewish Connection. The building of the Colosseum was made possible by Rome’s destruction of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago (Dr. Yvette Alt Miller, Aish.com).
Visitors to the ancient Colosseum in Rome are awed by its sheer size. Measuring 620 by 512 feet, it’s a massive structure; six and a half football fields could fit inside its space, with room to spare. Rising four stories into the sky, the Colosseum has 80 entrances and used to hold more than 50,000 spectators who flocked to this landmark to watch games during the height of the Roman Empire.

But few guidebooks mention why the Colosseum was built or how its sponsors could afford to build what was the largest amphitheater in the ancient world. The Colosseum was built to commemorate the sacking and destruction of Jerusalem, and was funded by loot stolen from the ancient Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

[...]

That's true.

For photos from my visit to the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and the Arch of Titus (etc.) in 2013, see here.

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

Re-aedificanda est Carthago

PUNIC WATCH: German architect wins contest to remodel Carthage site (David Rogers, Global Construction Review).
Stuttgart firm Bez + Kock Architekten has received the €50,000 first prize in an international competition to improve two of the most important cultural sites in Tunisia: the Byrsa Acropolis and the Carthage National Museum.
I noted the prospective refurbishment of the Carthage National Museum and its environs in 2021. It is good to see that the plans are moving forward.

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